Xylitol is a common human safe sweetener found in sugar-free gums and mouth washes and not thought of as a potential toxin for our dogs and can potentially even be fatal.
Toxic effects of Xylitol:
HYPOGLYCEMIA - In a dogs body the pancreas will confuse xylitol with real sugar and then begins to release insulin to store what it believes to be sugar. Unfortunately the insulin then only serves to remove the real sugar from the blood stream. This removal will cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and can cause symptoms such as weakness, disorientation, tremors and even potentially seizures. Intravenous fluids with a dextrose solution are often required to reverse the effect of the gum and increase the dogs blood sugar again to normal levels.
HEPATIC NECROSIS - Xylitol can also be very destructive to the tissue of the liver and actually cause breakdown of the liver tissue. When there is damage caused to the liver this can create internal hemorrhage and clotting issues. This side effect does not generally show up as quickly, typically around 8 - 12 hours after the consumption of the gum. Ingestion of higher doses of xylitol are generally required in order to have this effect on the liver. Also not all dogs that experience liver issues after ingestion will experience hypoglycemia first. Intravenous fluids may be required along with monitoring of liver enzyme values and clotting tests, other blood tests may be warranted depending on the dogs condition. Medications that are liver support/protectants may also be prescribed to help the liver to recover.
Xylitol poisoning is a very serious threat to any dog; gum or mouth wash should always be kept in a safe doggy-proof area. If you believe your dog has ingested either of these substances please call your veterinarian immediately. If you know the substance has been ingested within the last 30 minutes your vet can induce vomiting to try and bring up the gum.
A 10 lb dog can exhibit signs of xylitol poisoning with as little as a stick and a half of gum