Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten human food products. It’s most notably found in sugarless items like chewing gum, peanut butter, Jell-O, pudding, or other household products like vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Ice Breakers Cubed gum is the most common culprit we’ve seen lately at Aldie, and unfortunately has a high amount of xylitol. Just ONE tiny, little, delicious cube can cause toxicity in a 25-pound dog!
Xylitol toxicity is not documented as well in cats; most research indicates they are a bit more tolerant than their canine counterparts. However, it is not recommended to give cats xylitol and you should contact your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested any amount.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
A dog’s body responds to xylitol in the same, but exaggerated, manner that it would typically respond to sugar: it releases insulin. This causes a low blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which can result in subsequent weakness, muscle tremors, or even seizures or death. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly after ingestion; the drop in blood sugar can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but signs may take up to 12 hours to develop.
Xylitol can also cause damage to your dog’s liver. It can take up to 2-3 days for evidence of the damage to appear on lab work. The liver damage can range in severity from mild and temporary, to extreme and life-threatening. The liver is an important organ and has many jobs. We typically think of it as the filter/recycler of the body, as it processes blood from all around the body and “cleans” it up. However, the liver also makes many things, including clotting factors. Clotting factors allow the body to stop a severe hemorrhagic event from occurring following a simple injury (think bumping your knee=small bruise, not life-threatening hemorrhage). Dogs with severe liver damage may become jaundiced (have a yellow tinge to eyes/skin). If the clotting factors are also affected, life-threatening anemia can occur, and a blood transfusion may be required.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Time is of the essence! As soon as you realize your dog has ingested something containing xylitol, contact the veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center and bring them in right away! Blood glucose can drop as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, so there’s no time to waste.
WHAT DOES THE VET DO?
We will induce vomiting, and make recommendations for further treatment and monitoring based on how much xylitol your dog ingested. Inducing vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide can work, sometimes. However, there are studies that show that burns from the peroxide ingestion can persist in the esophagus/stomach days after the vomiting episode. Veterinarians have a much more potent vomiting agent, which is more likely to be successful than just peroxide, and less likely to have the abrasive side effects.
After vomiting occurs, we often recommend hospitalization for IV fluid support, dextrose (sugar) supplementation, liver protectant medications, and frequent monitoring lab work. These hospital stays range from 1 day for minimally affected dogs, to a week or more in very severe cases.
Xylitol is a sneakily dangerous food ingredient. Make sure to double check what kind of peanut butter you use to feed treats/medications, and use extreme caution with oral hygiene products, medications/vitamins, and chewing gum in the house. Make sure to keep your toothpaste and mouthwash in a drawer if you have a counter surfer, and keep purses and bookbags with gum up high on hooks to deter “shopping” from these items.
The veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center are here to answer any questions or treat your pet if he/she happens to get a hold of xylitol-containing goodies.
Skipper is about 16 weeks old now and growing like a little weed! Potty training is going very well; we only have a handful of accidents per week! He’s been enjoying playing with his sister terrier at home and the other doctors’ dogs from work (Check out our Instagram for pictures of the Skipper Conroy & Phebe Luce playdate!). He’s also learned a few commands; high five is my most favorite of these. I have grand plans for this to be a gateway into a “touchdown” trick for next football season. As it turns out, he’s a little lanky and unbalanced which results in him just tipping over these days, so we’re going to table that one for now.
With every growing inch, Skipper finds access to new places. Coffee tables apparently house very fun things, like all the cat toys that have been way more interesting than his 800 dog toys. Teaching him to stay off the couch was also much easier when he was half this height… and his maximum launch distance was shorter. Also, in his defense, Lily the terrier sabotages him by pulling him on to the couch during tug of war battles. As Skipper grew to couch access height, it became important for him to learn “off.” I picked “off,” because “get down” sounds too close to “lay down” for such a young pupper to differentiate. In my opinion, it is easiest to teach commands along with their opposite. For couch purposes, I taught Skipper “on” and “off” using lots of treats and a very sturdy wooden box. Now, when we correct Skipper for putting front feet on the couch, his (reluctant) retreat is another command worthy of earning praise and a treat.
Now, possibly more than ever, it’s important to keep everything positive, including corrections. Puppies can be very sensitive; disciplining early or incorrectly can damage your relationship together, and cause the puppy to misinterpret a situation. For example, if the puppy pees on the floor, refrain from pointing at the mess and yelling, “Bad dog!” He may act sheepish and seem like he understands, but keep in mind that puppies are pretty literal. Your pointing at the yellow liquid on the floor can make him think the pee itself and his proximity to it is bad, not the act of peeing on your floor. Shame and guilt have the same emotional appearance to us, but there’s a critical distinction. Guilt is a feeling of that one has done something bad; shame is thinking that one is inherently bad. There may be some level of satisfaction and accomplishment from these phrases and that sad puppy face you receive in return, but it is in fact a façade, and all we’ve done is derail the puppy’s confidence in your relationship.
Gently startling a pup to get his attention and redirect it is appropriate in many situations, but remember, you’ll need to remove and replace the undesired activity. Skipper greatly enjoys “shopping” for shoes and socks in the closet. He will oh-so-proudly return to a room and proceed to nom on his selection. This is an issue for two reasons. First, he can’t chew on expensive shoes. Second, socks, shoes, and clothes make excellent foreign bodies and could be life threatening. Your first instinct may be to chase the puppy and retrieve the item promptly. This incites a super fun game of chase! This may work for a little while, but my kiddo is going to have the legs of a deer and is definitely going to outrun me. A dog running away with a toxic or dangerous item is the last thing I want to encourage. To avoid rewarding Skipper with attention for stealing an off-limits item, we nonchalantly approach with another toy, ask him to “leave it” and then trade for an appropriate chew toy. Ideally, we keep the “fun” things out of his reach, or distract him on his way into the closet. If Skipper doesn’t know an item is off-limits, the allure of taking something he’s not supposed to have will likely fade away. Conversely, if every time he takes my shoe earns him a game of chase and attention, I’ve just increased the value of the shoe exponentially.
Let us know what fun things your pup has decided to have an affinity for, and how you’re working on it at home! We love updates through Facebook and Instagram!
-Dr. Conroy & Skipper
Unfortunately, pets get lost on a daily basis. Microchipping your pet is the easiest and most likely way to ensure he will be returned to you. While identification via a tag on your pet’s collar is great, most pets get lost due to an ill-fitting collar. According to a study by the ASPCA; 50% of dogs and 75% of cats are not wearing a collar when they are found and brought into a shelter. Other means of permanent identification would be a tattoo, these are usually done inside the ear or inside of a hind leg. This allows for easy identification without specialized equipment.
Microchipping is a safe and easy way for your pet to be identified if it ever gets lost. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are injected with a needle under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. They are encased in biocompatible material and have an anti-migration cap to help prevent movement in the pet’s body. Once a microchip is registered that information will remain attached to that chip. If you ever move or change your contact information it will be important to update your microchip information. According to Home Again Microchips, only 10% of microchips are actually registered after they are implanted. Remember it doesn’t do you any good to microchip your pet if you don’t register the chip!
Another great way to ensure your dog is safe and by your side when outdoors is to make sure you have a properly fitted collar and leash. Collars should fit snugly, you should be able to get two fingers under the collar comfortably, but not be able to pull it over your dogs head. We also don’t recommend walking your dog with a flexi-lead. While these allow great freedom if you are out playing ball, for most walks they allow your dog to get too far from you. It’s not uncommon for a dog to take off after something (a squirrel or another dog) and when they hit the end of the flexi-lead it is yanked from the owner’s hand. A short 6-10’ nylon leash with a handle is preferred because it will be harder for your dog to get away from you.
The last defense you have to prevent your dog from getting away from you is good obedience. Even a well-trained dog could be tempted not to listen if they are hot on the heels of an elusive squirrel. You should practice having your dog come, stay, and sit in all types of situations while they are on a leash and safe. If your dog will listen to you during the most hectic situations, he will most likely listen to you in an emergency situation. It’s not enough for your dog to come and stay in a quiet home environment. It’s important to practice these skills in all types of situations; it will also increase your dog’s confidence in himself and your bond together as a team.
The best defense against your dog getting lost is to prevent it from happening. Practice safe walking technique and good obedience. But always be prepared just in case with clear ID tags and a registered, current microchip.