Thursday, April 29, 2010

Xylitol-Related Dog Poisoning

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in many products, including sugar-free gum and mints, nicotine gum, chewable vitamins, oral-care products, and baked goods.

While xylitol consumption is considered safe in people, your dog can develop serious, even life-threatening, signs from xylitol ingestion.

"The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today reminded animal lovers and pet parents that xylitol, a sweetener found in certain sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods, toothpaste, and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for pets. Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Ill. managed approximately 2,690 cases of accidental xylitol ingestion. This is a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of cases involving xylitol-containing products from just three years ago, and 30 times as many cases from 2004, when the Center managed less than 100 incidents of xylitol ingestion."

Xylitol-Related Dog Poisoning Increasing
Urbana, Illinois

The number of xylitol-related cases of poisoning in dogs is increasing, possibly due to the number of products that contain the substance.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used a sugar substitute in a growing number of confectionary products. It is naturally occurring, being derived from the fibers of may fruits and vegetables, including corn husks and pats. In humans, over-consumption of xylitol can result in bloating and diarrhea, but these side-effects are thought to be less extreme than in the other popular sugar-substitute sorbitol. It is these properties that have driven manufacturers of everything from chewing-gum to toothpaste to replace at least some of the sugar in their products with xylitol.

Last year, the ASPCA® Animal Poison Center (APCC) received approximately 2,690 calls related to accidental xylitol ingestion. This represents an almost 40% increase on three years ago, and an astonishing 30-fold increase on 2004's cases. According to Dr. Eric Dunayer, Senior Toxicologist at the APCC, dogs ingesting items sweetened with xylitol could develop a fairly 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 also states that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs. While it was previously thought that only large concentrations of xylitol could result in problems, this no longer appears to be the case. "We seem to be learning new information with each subsequent case we manage. Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients. However, we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener." Dr. Dunayer also says that 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 remember that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won't develop later on."

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