Monday mornings at my house are always rough! No matter how much pre-packing, prepping and organizing I do with my boys, we always seem to struggle with last-minute backpack additions, unexpected inclement weather, or laundry leftovers from Sunday night. So today was yet another Manic Monday!
One last-minute addition is often my son Maguire’s sugar-free gum to gnaw on at elementary school. See, Maguire is a bit of a chit-chatter. He gets this trait from both Mom AND Dad so we try to be understanding. One way to keep that mouth quiet—gum! He’s currently a big fan of the Eclipse brand – so my corner cupboard looks a bit like this.
We keep the gum on the lowest shelf so shoveling it into his backpack is a bit easier. The downside—a recent experience from a loyal client very well could have happened to us! Thankfully, a little bit of research told us that Maguire’s favorite flavor does NOT contain the toxic ingredient xylitol. But many sugar-free gum products do!
Maguire is engaged in a last-minute race to stock up on snacks—including his favorite gum—as I fill water bottles, pack lunches, warm up the car etc., etc., etc. We dash out the door, only 5 minutes late, and no one notices that corner cupboard door conveniently hanging open. The sweet taste and the plaque-fighting ability of the xylitol in many brands of sugar-free gum make it the perfect sugar substitute for my carb-craving kids. And the perfect temptation for our family pet.
Within minutes, our precocious pup has torn into the box of Eclipse and consumed a pack of the gum-containing xylitol. Ten minutes later, he’s getting a bit weak and sleepy. Must be time to create his napping nest on our couch! He gets the blankets arranged just right—as his pancreas continuously dumps insulin into his blood. Within 20 minutes, his blood sugar plummets. Because seizures can happen anytime the blood sugar drops too low, the weakness progresses to muscle tremors and trembling. The trembling progresses to full-body seizures. If not treated in time, the hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) could cause our Tugger to die before I even stop in at lunchtime to let him outdoors.
Xylitol is the “new chocolate” in the world of pet poisons. Years ago, none of us were aware of how toxic chocolate could be for our pets. Nowadays that’s common knowledge. So xylitol has usurped chocolate’s spot as the secret killer in your cupboard. XYLITOL IS IN SO MANY HUMAN-FOOD PRODUCTS, IT IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO LIST THEM ALL. SO PLEASE, PLEASE READ THE INGREDIENTS OF ANY FOOD ITEM BEFORE GIVING IT TO YOUR PETS. NO INGREDIENTS LISTED – DON’T FEED IT TO YOUR PET! (think about that take-out box from your favorite restaurant or bakery). Some items that may contain xylitol:
- Sugar-free Gum
- Peanut Butter
- Energy Drinks
- Nicotine Gum
- Chewable Vitamins
- Nasal Spray
- Lip Balm
- Human Oral-Care Products
- Children’s Medications (especially liquids and chewables)
- Baked Goods
- Jell-O Sugar-free Snacks
Xylitol is actually a natural sugar alcohol – so it is found in many “100% natural” products. Other warning words to watch for:
- Low in sugar
- Sugar free
- Reduced sugar
- Aspartame free
- Sweetened with birch sugar
We know that once ingested, xylitol can be absorbed quickly—within 10 minutes! It tells a dog’s pancreas to excrete TONS of excess insulin, causing weakness, ataxia (incoordination), trembling, vomiting, seizures and a yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin. Don’t wait for these symptoms to develop – by then it’s too late! If you know (or even suspect) that your pet may have ingested a product with xylitol, here’s your plan-of-action:
- Dose your pet with hydrogen peroxide. This may not work but it’s worth a try just before you hit the car to head to the ER. Approximate your dog’s weight. Cut that number in half. That’s the number of milliliters (mls) of hydrogen peroxide that you need to get into him. So, for my 65-pound Tugger, I need to give about 30 mls (1 oz) of hydrogen peroxide.
- Next, rub your pet’s gums with Karo syrup. Go ahead and just scoop a tablespoon or so of Karo syrup into his mouth. This will absorb through the gums and the mucosa of the esophagus—so even if your pet vomits, some sugar may get through!
- START DRIVING! Don’t wait for the above to work. Get #1 and #2 done and get your pet in the car. Head to Shaver Road Animal Hospital or the nearest animal ER. Your pet’s blood sugar needs to be monitored for about 12 hours and their liver is going to require supportive care too. The hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is the immediate risk but liver failure quickly follows.
XYLITOL CAN BE FATAL WHEN INGESTED. DO NOT DELAY – SEEK TREATMENT RIGHT AWAY!