Did you know that even one or two pieces of chewing gum sweetened with xylitol could poison a dog?
Xylitol (pronounced zahy-li-tawl) is a sweetener that's used in gum, mints, baked goods and many other foods. In people, xylitol is digested into a sugar alcohol that doesn't affect insulin or blood glucose levels. Because of that, it has become very popular as a sugar substitute in all kinds of processed foods. Unfortunately, it isn't well known that this ingredient is very dangerous if ingested by a dog.
In dogs, xylitol triggers a sudden, large release of insulin into their circulation, which causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, can cause vomiting, unsteadiness, lethargy, seizures and even death. With xylitol poisoning, severe liver damage or liver failure can result. The timing for these signs to begin is variable, but often the initial hypoglycemia occurs within 20-30 minutes.
The toxic dose of xylitol for dogs is 75-100mg/kg of body weight. The amount of xylitol is rarely listed on food labels, and food manufacturers are not required to publish this information. Some studies report that the amount of xylitol in one piece of gum can range from less than 1mg up to 1000mg, making it very difficult to know how much a dog would have to ingest to be harmed. The issue is also often complicated because when a dog gets into a pack of gum, it can be hard to know how many pieces were eaten.
Cats don't seem to be affected by xylitol like dogs. However, there is still much that's unknown about the ingredient so it's better to be on the safe side.
Make sure your friends and family know to keep gum, mints and other foods containing xylitol out of reach of your pets. If you suspect your dog has chewed or ingested a food containing xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately.