Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Q: Sugar Free Candies and Pets

Sugar Free candy this holiday?

Not safe for pets!

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol -- an artificial sweetener created from birch, raspberries, plums and corn. This sweetener is found in many human “sugar free” products, such as gum, candies and other sweets. In humans, high doses may have a mild laxative effect, but in dogs, ingestion could be fatal.

It has been known for quite some time that there is a link between xylitol ingestion and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in dogs. Now, with the prevalence of this sweetener in human foods, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has noted a connection between xylitol consumption and acute toxicity in dogs.

Signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion in dogs. The xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose. This in turn may cause the following symptoms:

* Vomiting
* Weakness
* Ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
* Depression
* Hypokalemia (decreased potassium)
* Seizures
* Coma
* Liver dysfunction and/or failure

Xylitol is found in many products. The most common xylitol item is sugar-free gum. Gum can be found everywhere, and is often tempting to dogs. Keep gum out of reach - watch out for open pockets, purses, counter tops, and in the car. Xylitol can also be found in sugar-free (low carb and diabetic) candies, baked goods, some pharmaceuticals and many dental products, including mouthwashes, mints and toothpastes. Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

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