Xylitol is an artificial sweetener growing in popularity and is used in many popular gums, candies, baked goods, medicines, and toothpastes. Xylitol for people can bring many positive health benefits including : prevention of cavities, releasing fewer calories than sugar, and not raising blood sugar levels. As a Bend veterinarian it seems like this type of toxicity is on the rise locally. It may be that citizens of Deschutes county aim to have a healthier lifestyle and more people are cooking with the raw form of Xylitol, or it may be that we have the largest population of four-legged friends in the US.
Unfortunately in pets Xylitol has an opposite effect on their body. When ingested even in minute quantities; it tricks their body into believing their blood sugar levels are too high causing a dangerous release of high levels of insulin which actually drop their circulating blood sugar levels. This drop in blood sugar will cause a hypoglycemic state leading to signs including: weakness, drunken gait, stupor, collapse, and even death.
If that is not bad enough Xylitol can lead to acute idiopathic liver necrosis - liver failure for unexplained reasons. All of these sings can be reversed but many animals have to be hospitalized for days and given intravenous sugars to help prevent the hypoglycemia, and the ones who suffer liver failure require even more aggressive medical management. 99 times out of a 100 it is a dog doing the ingestion. Both cats and dogs can have similar reactions to this sweetener.
If you suspect your pet has ingested a product containing Xylitol or any other toxins, please do not hesitate to contact us or one of the emergency veterinarians at the Animal Emergency Center here in Bend. Time is often of the essence when it comes to treating toxic reactions successfully.