|What is Xylitol?
Xylitol are sugar alcohols or polyols. They occur naturally in fruits and are produced commercially from such sources as dextrose. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol made from a part of birch trees. This naturally occurring product is found in many sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and toothpastes. In other words, it is used as a sugar-substitute.
According to the National Cancer Institue, sugar substitutes, also called artificial sweeteners, are substances that are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and beverages. Sugar substitutes are many times sweeter than table sugar, and therefore, smaller amounts are needed to create the same level of sweetness.
Common Brand names are Nutra-Sweet and Equal.
The Rise of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
The red flag is up for animal owners that xylitol, a sweetener found in certain sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for pets. According the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the number of 2005 Xylitol-Related Cases Up More Than 150% Over Previous Year.
Researchers Sharon Gwaltney-Brant and Eric Dunayer with staff at the poison unit of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Illinois, did a study on eight dogs treated for eating products containing xylitol between 2003 and 2005. The study has shown that each dog became ill and five died or had to be put down due to liver failure, possibly from ingesting xylitol.
According to Dr. Dunayer, dogs ingesting substantial amounts of items sweetened with xylitol could develop a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and seizures. "These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately," Dr. Dunayer said. He also said that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.
"With smaller concentrations of xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed as much as 12 hours after ingestion. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won’t develop later on."
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center strongly urges pet owners to be especially diligent in keeping candy, gum or other foods containing xylitol out of the reach of pets. As with any potentially toxic substance, should accidental exposures occur, it is important to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for immediate assistance.