Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is found in fibrous vegetables and fruit. This includes mushrooms, raspberries, strawberries, yellow plums, lettuce and cauliflower. In fruits and vegetables the amount found is miniscule therefore most Xylitol is made in the lab.
Xylitol is used instead of sugar because it helps reduce the development of dental caries and plaque formation as well as being low in calories. Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free products such as sugar-free candy, chewing gum, baked goods, and oral hygiene products. Xylitol also is an ingredient in many over-the-counter human drugs, such as chewable vitamins, throat lozenges and sprays.
However it is nothing like sugar for our four legged dog friends. . Unfortunately, many people are unaware that Xylitol, even in minute amounts is extremely toxic to dogs. When ingested in significant quantity, the toxin causes severe liver necrosis (destruction). The amounts necessary are surprisingly small. Should a 10 pound dog ingest a stick and a half of sugarless gum, it is sufficient to cause life-threatening liver failure.
If you notice that you dog ate sugarless gum or another product that contains Xylitol seek immediate medical care! Dogs with this intoxication should be presented as soon as possible to a veterinarian for evaluation of liver function via blood work. If the ingestion is noticed quickly, the therapy would include inducing vomiting. If it is caught late, agents may be given orally to try and bind the Xylitol in the gut. Supportive care with intravenous fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial hepatitis, and mucosal protectants may aid in recuperation.
Sadly, most of the time, however, dogs simply present with sudden onset liver failure. which can make the diagnosis difficult and delay onset of treatment if the owner does not know about the ingestion of the gum.
Please keep this and other hazards away from your dog.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435