Candy and gum manufactures have been using Xylitol as a sugar substitute since the mid 60’s. It is made from corn, plums, raspberries and birch. The sweetener has 40% less calories than sugar and has demonstrated a dramatic reduction in tooth decay in people.
Unfortunately, it is very dangerous for dogs. Initial studies suggested only large quantities were harmful but as little as two sticks of Trident gum in a 20lb dog could cause serious problems. Individual sensitivity to the Xylitol is variable, but should always be considered an emergency.
Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) occur after consumption of the Xylitol because it increases insulin production. The insulin is not required for digestion of Xylitol, so it attacks the glucose in the dog’s body resulting in the rapid decrease of blood sugar level.
Clinical signs of Xylitol toxicity are vomiting, imbalance, weakness, depression, seizures and coma. It can also be associated with liver failure. This is a life threatening toxicity. If you know or think your dog has eaten anything containing Xylitol, they must be treated IMMEDIATELY.
The best treatment is prevention. Keep all products containing Xylitol in a safe place. It is sometimes difficult to know if a “sugar-free” product has Xylitol, so keep all of them out of reach.
Bonnie Kramer, DVM "Dr. Sparky"