Toxic Chewing Gum

Xylitol Containing Gums

Did you know that some of the chewing gums you can pick up at the store can be toxic to your dog? Sugarless gums often contain a product called Xylitol. Xylitol is a commonly used sugar substitute. It is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar, and can be bought in bulk at grocery stores. It is widely used in sugarless gum. Xylitol can be lethal to dogs, even in very small amounts. There have been no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats.

Clinical Effects of Xylitol Toxicity:

  • Xylitol promotes release of insulin, and dogs can become profoundly hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), which leads to weakness, collapse and seizures. These symptoms usually show up within 30 minutes of ingestion and last for 12 hours.
  • Xylitol can also cause liver necrosis (liver cell death) and death. Signs of liver failure generally start 8-12 hours after ingestion.

Xylitol Label

Toxic Dose of Xylitol:

  • 0.1 gram per kilogram of body weight can cause profound hypoglycemia
  • 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight can cause liver necrosis
  • One or two pieces of sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol could cause low blood sugar in a 10 pound dog.
  • An entire package of sugar-free gum could cause liver necrosis in a 10 pound dog.

What is the treatment?

  • The best treatment is induction of vomiting within 30 minutes of ingestion of the xylitol containing product-call your veterinarian immediately if you see your dog ingest a xylitol containing product
  • Activated charcoal is not used for decontamination, since it does not bind with xylitol
  • There is no specific antidote for xylitol poisoning.
  • Supportive care is necessary for survival. Dextrose containing intravenous fluids will be necessary. Monitoring of liver enzyme levels and liver function tests will be necessary for 2-3 days. Phosphorous and potassium levels are also monitored. High phosphorous levels are a poor prognostic indicator.

How can you prevent it?

  • Avoid leaving sugar free gum and candy in areas accessible to dogs
  • Avoid using xylitol as a bulk sugar substitute in home cooking.

If you feel that your dog has potentially been exposed to xylitol or is experiencing symptoms of xylitol toxicity, please call us right away at 651-739-0117. For further information or if we are unavailable you can contact the National Animal Poison Control Center - 1-888-426-4435 (24 hour service, consultations are generally $60).

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