The use of xylitol has increased dramatically in the last five years, and thenumber of xylitol pet poisonings has more than doubled in that time, accordingto the Pet Poison Helpline. Cases include dogs that have eaten gummies andother edible forms of marijuana.

Xylitol has fewer calories than sugar, but it’s not an artificial sweetener.It’s found naturally in berries and plums and other fruits as well as in corn,oats, mushrooms, lettuce and trees. It’s good for people but potentiallylethal for pets, especially dogs.

Frequently used in candy and sugar-free gum, xylitol is also added to peanutbutter, toothpaste, nasal sprays, sleep aids, shampoo, deodorant,multivitamins, prescription sedatives and medications, antacids, stoolsofteners, make-up remover, smoking cessation gums, and marijuana edibles.

“Some research suggests that the chemical compound may have positive healthbenefits for people, including better dental health and prevention of earinfections,” said Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist atPet Poison Helpline, which is affiliated with the University of MinnesotaCollege of Veterinary Medicine.

But it can kill dogs, who sometimes suffer “a precipitous drop in bloodsugar,” she said. “Seizures, brain damage and death are not uncommon. Liverfailure can set in hours or days later.”

Symptoms include decreasing activity, weakness, staggering, lack ofcoordination, collapse and seizures.

Marijuana edibles are a triple threat because they contain xylitol and THC,and there can be negative interactions between the two substances.

“Xylitol smells good and tastes good,” so dogs love it, Dr. Brutlag said,adding that cats are not as susceptible to xylitol.

Many of the calls to the Pet Poison Helpline are about Labrador retrievers,she said. That will come as no surprise to Lab lovers. The food-motivatedbreed is notorious for stealing food, raiding purses and ingesting items thataren’t generally considered edible, including light bulbs, small batteries andjewelry. And there are a lot of Labs around — They’re still the top dog on thelist of American Kennel Club registrations.

Golden retrievers, German shepherds and Chihuahuas are also the subjects ofmany calls, according to helpline staffers.

So what’s a pet lover to do? Read labels. It will be listed among theingredients.

“Xylitol is not cheap, so I don’t expect to see it in the most popular brands”of consumer products, Dr. Brutlag said. It’s more likely to be found inweight-loss, low-calorie, and other products considered “healthy” or“natural,” she said.

The Preventive Vet website (www.preventativevet.com) lists products containingxylitol by name. Candies and gums listed include Airheads, Dentyne, Orbit,Mentos, Tic Tac, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and Extra Ice, and Hershey’s BreathSavers and Ice Breakers.

Sugar-free chewing gum is the No. 1 source of xylitol poisoning and xylitol isthe No. 2 cause of all dog poisonings, behind chocolate, Dr. Brutlag said.

If you see your dog exhibiting any symptoms, which can include diarrhea andvomiting, call your veterinarian immediately. Because these things so oftenhappen at night or on weekends, you may need to call the helpline, whichoperates 24/7.

Veterinarians sometimes call Pet Poison Helpline to check on a pet’s symptoms,Dr. Brutlag said. Vets generally take only one toxicology course in school,and the symptoms of poisoning are similar to those of many diseases and otherconditions.

Xylitol poisoning diagnosis involves “a lot of detective work,” she said.

Dr. Brutlag, who has her own dog, Odin, is one of the veterinarians who answerthe Helpline, and they do an amazing job, considering they don’t get to see orput their hands on the pet. Blood work and urine analysis are a big part ofthe detective work and diagnosis, she said.

Pet Poison Helpline isn’t just for dogs and cats; calls also come in forbirds, small and large mammals and exotic species. The cost is $65, and thatincludes follow-up consultations. The number to call is 800-213-6680. For moreinformation, go to www.petpoisonhelpline.com.

Source: Linda Wilson Fuoco: [email protected] or 412-263-3064 or at PGPets on Facebook.

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