September 26, 2022

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Rain showers this evening with clearing overnight. Low 53F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%..
Rain showers this evening with clearing overnight. Low 53F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Updated: September 7, 2022 @ 7:29 pm
Serving Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey
September 7, 2022

Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, is a common sugar substitute. It is found in sugar-free gum, toothpaste, and other sugar-free foods. Xylitol has some health benefits in humans, such as reducing periodontal disease, helping osteoporosis, and preventing ear and throat infections. It may also reduce the risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and even breast cancer. Although it sounds promising in humans, it can be deadly in dogs.
A dog’s pancreas does not recognize xylitol as an artificial sweetener. Instead, it releases three to seven times the normal amount of insulin compared to regular sugar. In response, the dog’s blood sugar level plummets, resulting in weakness, disorientation, tremors and seizures. The scientific term for this condition is hypoglycemia. It does not take a large amount of ingestions—a few sticks of gum can be dangerous for a small dog. The symptoms can begin 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. Symptoms begin with vomiting then progress to incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Xylitol can also cause destruction of the liver, or hepatic necrosis. It is unknown what causes this but the dog must ingest a significant amount of xylitol before this occurs. A complete and acute liver failure can result with death following. Internal hemorrhaging and the inability of blood to clot are common complications.
Treatment involves decontamination as soon as possible. If the dog can vomit within 30 minutes of ingestion, they have a much better prognosis. Liver enzyme and blood clotting tests are monitored for two to three days. Elevated blood phosphorus levels often bode poorly, and patients that develop hepatic necrosis usually do not survive. Intravenous dextrose is used to help stabilize the critically hypoglycemic patient.
So far, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control has no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats. At this time, feline toxicity is unknown.
Dr. Allani Delis, DVM, is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum. 
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