Rose’s not-so-sweet treat: The dangers of Xylitol for dogs

On 23rd January, we were having our usual Wednesday meeting when we received a rather panicked phone call from a client who was concerned that her 9-month-old French Bulldog Rose had eaten up to 58 bits of sugar-free chewing gum. Now to some people, this seems like silly puppy behaviour and nothing too much to worry about, especially as Rose had vomited most of the chewing gum up shortly after chewing it. But luckily for Rose, Emma was aware of the risks of the Xylitol in the chewing gum and knew she needed to be seen by us as quickly as possible.

On arrival at the surgery, Rose was very bright and looked rather pleased with herself. But Gemma and Emma, who were the vets on duty that afternoon were worried about her and started to administer treatment straight away, getting some advise from the Veterinary Poisons Services (VPS), whose call handler said there was no report of a dog ever eating this much Xylitol and they were very worried about Rose, how she might respond and had the very real concern she might die.

Rose was admitted to the hospital and initial bloods were taken, Xylitol can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) as a dog’s pancreas will confuse it will real sugar, which makes it release more insulin. The insulin then removes the real sugar in the body, leading to plummeting blood sugar levels. Rose’s blood sugar was going down so she was started on a glucose infusion and her blood glucose levels were checked every 2 hours.

Another reaction to xylitol is liver failure and this is even more serious, but it’s not known what causes this to happen, the liver failure can also cause problems with blood clotting meaning it takes longer for blood to clot. Sadly for Rose, both her liver parameters and her blood clotting times were elevated. She was started on liver support medication and Vitamin K to help with the clotting. We also started her on a fast rate of fluid therapy so we could support her as much as possible and shift all the toxins from her body.

Although there is no evidence to say activated charcoal helps the VPS suggested that with that amount of Xylitol Rose had consumed it might just do something, this of course made all of us have very black hands and Rose a very black face as she enthusiastically ate the charcoal covered food we gave her. All the chewing gum had done nothing to decrease her appetite.

Rose was transferred to Vets Now for overnight care, her family came to move her from one surgery to the other but sadly her owner’s eldest son, who is Rose’s biggest fan was too upset to come. However the next morning he was proudly bringing Rose back to us with reports she had done very well overnight.

Rose’s blood parameters continued to improve during the next day with us and we decided she was well enough to go home overnight as long as she was monitored closely. So her family woke up every hour to check on Rose and arrived at the surgery the next morning looking slightly tired but very happy that she had been well overnight.

Rose stayed with us that day but was so well in the evening she went home on just a couple of medications. She was checked a couple of days later and everything was back to normal.

Rose had a very lucky escape from the Xylitol, and a lot of pets are not that fortunate, there has been reports of a labradoodle dying after eating a brownie which contained Xylitol. There are more products than you might think which can be dangerous, peanut butter, mouthwash, jellied sweets and some jams can all pose a threat to your pet, and remember although you might think it is well hidden, dogs noses can seek out the best hiding places and they love eating naughty things.

Rose is now having a great life and is completely back to normal but she would strongly advise her doggy friends NOT to eat chewing gum the fresh breath just isn’t worth it.

If you are ever concerned your dog or cat should have eaten something it shouldn’t have and it could be dangerous then please do contact us at the surgery.

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