Not unlike parents, any dog owner is going to quickly become familiar with things that are toxic to dogs because just like kids, dogs love getting into things that are bad for them. It’s just a fact of life. Most of us know, for instance, to keep things like baker’s chocolate, antifreeze, and poinsettia plants up where our pups can’t get at them. But have you ever given much thought to sugar-free gum? What about sugar-free peppermints and breath mints?
All of those things, as well as a wide range of other products, contain an additive called xylitol. Xylitol sounds like it should be one of those artificial food additives that we’d be better off avoiding, but for humans it’s pretty good. It’s a naturally-occurring sugar substitute, a type of alcohol, found in everything from oats, berries and birch bark to corn husks and sugar cane fiber. Because it doesn’t ferment xylitol doesn’t contribute to tooth decay, so it’s used in things like tooth-paste, sugar-free gum, and sugar-free breath mints. And since xylitol is absorbed more slowly than other forms of sugar, it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, so it’s often used as a sugar substitute by diabetics in things like candy.
As great as xylitol is for people, though, it is very bad for dogs. In fact, it can be deadly. The problem is that dogs—just like us—love sweet-tasting things and will go to great lengths to get them. My dogs, for example, have chewed through pants pocket liners and rooted through purses and other bags to get at sugar-free gum and peppermints. Luckily no one was wearing the pants in question at the time.
Recently a long-time customer let us know that she had a scare after her dog ate a pack of sugar-free gum. And it doesn’t take much gum to be dangerous. As little as 50 milligrams of xylitol per pound of body weight for a dog can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver damage, and even death. Fifty milligrams is the equivalent of two Benadryl tablets, and a single 1.7 gram stick of Trident gum with xylitol contains a gram of the stuff. Thanks to quick action on the part of our customer and her vets, the dog came through. But if the owner had waited until her dog started to show symptoms of xylitol toxicity it would have been too late to save him. Even so the poor pooch required four days of emergency medical care–and that is not an inexpensive proposition. All for a pack of gum that costs less than a dollar.
So enjoy your Trident gum and sugar-free candies and Certs breath mints. Just make sure your dog does not!
If you have questions about other toxins for dogs, feel free to contact us. If we don’t know about it, we’ll help you find out.
Blog post by Jay Robison, Receptionist at DogBoy’s