Whats the topic for today?
Xylitol poisoning in dogs
Its a sweetner found in some sugar-free products like chewing gum and mouthwashes. Apart from providing a sweet taste it also has an antibacterial effect to help prevent gum and tooth disease.
Isnt it dangerous putting a poison into things we eat.
Xylitol is very safe for humans but unfortunately its one of those drugs that dogs metabolise differently to humans and so it can be toxic for them.
What does it do to them?
It has two effects really. The first is that it can cause the blood glucose levels to drop dangerously low which can cause seizures.
How does it cause that?
Xylitol fools the dogs body into thinking that it is a real sugar and in response the pancreas releases insulin which causes the blood glucose levels to drop.
Whats the second effect it can have?
At high levels it can cause liver damage and this can be severe enough to cause death. They often die of internal haemorrhages.
So how much chewing gum would a dog need to eat to poison itself?
If a small 10kg dog like a jack Russell or a bichon frise were to eat just 3 sticks of xylitol chewing gum it would cause a drop in blood glucose. The same dog would need to eat about 30 sticks however to cause liver damage. Bigger dogs could obviously get away with eating more.
Is there any treatment?
Your vet can make them vomit it up if you can get them to the clinic within 30mins but after that the dog may already have absorbed enough to need to go on an intravenous glucose drip. Once on a drip they should be safe unless they have eaten enough to cause liver damage. We can’t prevent the liver damage.
What about cats? Is it poisonous for them?
We are unsure how much cats can cope with but so far there have been no confirmed cases of xylitol poisoning in cats.
What about mouthwash, you mentioned some contain xylitol?
Yes there is a new mouthwash available for cats and dogs called aquadent
So why does it contain xylitol if its poisonous to dogs?
Its the same old story of a little of something being good for you but a lot of it being bad for you. At low concentrations it is perfectly safe and if used daily can help prevent gum disease in cats and dogs. It comes as a liquid that you add to the drinking water and its a really useful product.
So how much would a dog need to drink for it to be poisonous?
Going back to that 10kg jack russel it would need to drink more than 20 litres a day and that is just impossible. A jack russel usually drinks less than 1 litre a day. It would probably die of water poisoning before xylitol poisoning.
Can you die of water poisoning?
Yes many safe things become dangerous if you have too much. There was a case in the states a few years ago where some students had a 24hr sponsored water drinking session. There was a prize for who drunk the most. One girl actually died due to swelling of the brain. If you have too much water in your body your brain can swell. I cant remember the volume she drank but it was an unbelievable amout that you wouldn’t think was possible.
Going back to aquadent are you confident it is a safe product?
I am confident that if you dilute it to the level directed on the bottle it is 100% safe. BUT if a dog were to grab the undiluted bottle off your shelf and guzzle it down neat then yes it could poison itself.
How much would it need to drink?
Well that 10kg jack Russell would only need to drink 200ml of the concentrated stuff straight from the bottle to cause a drop in blood glucose. That's one bottles worth. It would need to drink 10 full bottles to cause liver damage.
So as with many things its totally safe if you use it correctly but make sure the bottle is kept out of reach of the dog.