The Dangers of the Sugar Substitute Xylitol

xylitol

Recently, Longs Peak Animal Hospital has seen several cases of dogs experiencing toxicity from a substance called xylitol, and its effects can be life-threatening. Xylitol is a common sugar substitute found in many different food (and non-food) items from sugar-free gum and candy, to artificial sweetener for baking, to nut butters and vitamins and supplements. While it does not appear to have adverse effects in humans, dogs can experience toxic effects, even at seemingly low doses. To date, cats do not appear to be affected in the same way as dogs.

Xylitol is one of several common “sugar alcohols”. In dogs, it causes a massive release of insulin from the pancreas, which leads to a precipitous drop in blood sugar. If blood sugar becomes too low, a condition called hypoglycemia will develop, and may lead to weakness, lethargy, seizures, and death. Xylitol can also cause damage to the dog’s liver, known as acute liver necrosis. While liver necrosis is thought to occur at higher levels of intoxication, the exact level at which this occurs and the mechanism itself is unknown.

There is no known antidote for xylitol toxicity; treatment centers on supportive care. Treatment for xylitol ingestion may include induction of vomiting for recent ingestions, as long as the patient is conscious, followed by hospitalization for close monitoring of blood glucose values, glucose supplementation, and IV fluid administration as needed. Some patients may experience hypoglycemia for up to 72 hours after ingestion. Additionally, blood tests are performed periodically for at least 72 hours to assess liver health, and special medications for liver protection may be indicated.

The key to successful treatment of xylitol ingestion is early and aggressive intervention. If you suspect your dog may have ingested even as little as 1 to 2 sticks of gum containing xylitol, do not hesitate to seek immediate treatment.

 

  • Kristin Hrenchir, DVM
Longs Peak Animal Hospital, PC – 9727 Ute Highway – Longmont, CO 80504
303-776-6666  – http://www.longspeakah.com
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Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

 

DrHrenchir

Since the passage of two amendments to the state constitution in Colorado (Amendment 20 in 2000, allowing medical use of marijuana and Amendment 64 in 2012, allowing recreational use), exposure of pets to marijuana in our area has increased, and toxicity from these products can be serious in animals.

Pet exposure occurs most frequently in dogs, but cats and other pets are also at risk. Different forms of marijuana can contain drastically variable levels of THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in marijuana and other cannabinoids). Exposure can occur to marijuana plants, loose leaf marijuana, edibles, oils, or second-hand smoke.

For pets who have ingested items containing THC or inhaled marijuana smoke, signs of toxicity can include nervous system changes, such as stumbling, sleepiness, mental dullness, and disorientation; rarely, an affected pet may show signs of CNS stimulation. Severely affected pets may go into a coma. Dogs usually display urine dribbling as a sign, and their third eyelids are usually prominent. Affected pets may also show an extreme sensitivity to stimuli such as touch or sound. Cannabinoids can cause vomiting, but this is rarely seen as they usually produce profound anti-nausea effects.

If a pet has consumed a large amount of edible product (i.e. – brownies, candy, cookies, etc.) or plant material, gastric lavage (aka “stomach pumping”) may be necessary, and it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Activated charcoal may be administered orally to minimize further absorption of THC. In more severely affected cases the pet may need to be hospitalized for supportive care, which can include warming, oxygen, IV fluids, and sedation if needed. There is no specific antidote for THC toxicity.

While marijuana toxicity is rarely fatal, it can indeed be serious, and immediate veterinary care is always best. Recovery time for pets is highly variable, but most pets are back to normal within 12 to 24 hours. If you have any specific questions about marijuana toxicity, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Please visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services.

  • Kristin Hrenchir, DVM