Xylitol – the sweetener that’s poisoning our dogs

emergency-first-aidThe mass pet food recall in the United States is focusing our minds on what we are feeding our dogs, and I for one am looking hard at all food labels before giving any food to Fritz and Zoe.

I read today that Xylitol a sweetener found in many chewing gums, candies and baked goods is extremely [tag-tec]poisonous to dogs[/tag-tec].

The ASPCA has reported that it is treating an increasing numbers of dogs that have eaten products containing the artificial sweetener. Xylitol is a relatively new, but increasingly popular, product to the US marketplace and knowledge of the effects it has on dogs is increasing all the time.

Like [tag-tec]chocolate[/tag-tec], products containing Xylitol can have a sweet smell that dogs find attractive, and given their tendency to rummage and gobble, it only takes a packet of chewing gum left in an open bag for your dog to eat it and become very ill.

Two or three sticks of chewing gum containing Xylitol can prove toxic for a 20 pound dog.

Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning

Within 30 minutes of ingesting Xylitol your dog can become very seriously ill; however the symptoms can take 12 hours to emerge if only a small quantity has been consumed.

Xylitol causes a very quick drop in your dog’s blood sugar level and typically he will start vomiting, which can be followed by a loss of co-ordination (he’ll tend to stagger around), lethargy, collapse and seizures.

If you think your dog has eaten a product containing Xylitol, take him to your vet immediately – this product can prove fatal in a very short space of time if not treated.

Some common products that are known to contain Xylitol include:

  • Jell-O puddings
  • Trident sugar free chewing gum
  • Altoid mints
  • Some brands of toothpaste, nicotine gum and vitamins and dietary supplements.
Read all food labels carefully; your dog is most at risk if it eats a product that has Xylitol listed as the first ingredient.
      Artificial sweeteners

that don’t contain

    Xylitol include: Splenda, Nutrasweet and Sweet N’ Low

Chocolate Toxicity – how much chocolate can your dog eat?

chocolate-easter-eggI don’t know about you, but I tend to over-indulge in chocolate at Easter, but apart from feeling guilty about eating so much, thankfully I don’t suffer any long term consequences. Unfortunately the same may not be true for your dog if he gets stuck into your Easter eggs. [tag-tec] Dog poisoning [/tag-tec] from the ingestion chocolate accounts for many trips to the vet this time of year.

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine – a natural stimulant found in cocoa beans. Dogs love the flavor of theobromine and even the tiniest taste of chocolate will leave them craving for more, but in large doses chocolate can be fatal.

So how much chocolate is too much? If your dog happens to eat one or two M&Ms then you don’t need to dash off to the vet, but the taste will leave him addicted to chocolate and he’ll take every opportunity to have another taste in the future.

Chocolate toxicity will depend on the type and amount of chocolate eaten, the weight of your dog as well as his age and general health.

White chocolate contains the least amount of theobromine and baking chocolate the most. As a rule of thumb:

  • White chocolate – signs of toxicity can occur when 45 ounces per pound of body weight is eaten; so a 10 pound dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier would need to eat approximately 28 pounds of white chocolate before the chocolate was toxic!
  • Milk Chocolate – signs of toxicity can occur when 1 ounce per pound of body weight is eaten, so our 10 pound Yorkshire Terrier would only need to eat half a pound of chocolate before he became ill.
  • Sweet Cocoa (includes instant cocoa) – only one third of an ounce of chocolate per pound of body weight is needed before symptoms of toxicity would show. Using the Yorkshire Terrier as an example again, that’s just three ounces, or an average chocolate bar.
  • Baking Chocolate – this has the highest incidence of theobromine and just one tenth of an ounce per pound of body weight is enough to be toxic. Our Yorkshire Terrier would be showing signs of poisoning if he ate just one ounce of baking chocolate.

Theobromine affects the central nervous system and when taken in toxic amounts can lead to the following symptoms – hyper activity, restlessness, panting, increased urination, diarrhoea and, in extreme cases, seizures.

If you suspect your dog has eaten a large amount of chocolate then contact your vet immediately. Treatment will usually involve fluid replacement, sedatives and medication to reduce heart rate and blood pressure if the poisoning is severe. Thankfully, most dogs recover within 48 hours of treatment.

So please keep your dog safe this Easter and don’t let him have the taste of chocolate, it could be a fatal mistake.