Dog Mom Warns Pet Parents About Xylitol Poisoning

dog xylitol

Boomer is a dog who gets into things and eats items he shouldn’t. He is one of those dogs who dog mom Angela Kussman says is “too smart for his own good.” He opens doors and drawers by himself, pulls things off counters, and nothing lower than 5 feet is safe from Boomer. Xylitol poisoning is not something Kussman ever knew about.

As the parent to a dog who likes to McGyver his way into situations, I have learned not to leave treats within Dexter’s reach and to keep purses zipped and up high from prying Cocker eyes and paws. Angela Kussman can relate and she hopes her recent near tragedy helps other dog moms and dads.

“I had a friend in town for the weekend and we went out to dinner and the symphony to celebrate me buying a new house and her accepting a new job and moving to Kansas City,”  Kussman shares. “We were gone about 5 hours and I decided (stupidly) that I would just let Boomer stay out and be free while we were gone.”

What could he possibly do in a few hours, Kussman thought to herself. After all, she put everything out of his reach.dog running

When she arrived home at 10:30 that night, she saw remnants of something all over the floor. Boomer had broken into two containers of Ice Breakers Ice Cube gum she bought earlier that day and broke the plastic to get the gum out. The gum was left on the kitchen island in a bag from the store.

Boomer had vomited and began drinking massive amounts of water. He kept begging Kussman for water and kicking his bowls around. Something made the worried dog mom Google “My dog ate Ice Breakers gum.” What she read shook her to the core and caused her to rush Boomer to the emergency vet.

Xylitol is one of the ingredients in Ice Breakers (and other sugar-free) products. The vet explained to Kussman that even a small amount can be lethal, and having ingested 40 pieces, the prognosis was very serious. The Xylitol had time to travel to Boomer’s liver and he was in danger of liver failure. The prognosis was downgraded to poor.

“She had him on an IV solution with glucose to try to even out his glucose levels and a liver protectant,” Kussman recalls. “ She also said they needed to do a plasma transfusion to improve his clotting time.”

He began with Vitamin K injections, a glucose solution, and a liver protecting drug. They wanted to flush his system out and hope the liver could start healing itself. Boomer was hospitalized from Thursday through Monday and began to show improvement. Three nights of treatment cost Kussman over $2,500 and she nearly lost her dog to Xylitol poisoning.

“Everyone knows chocolate, grapes, raisins, etc. are toxic to dogs.  Why don’t we know about Xylitol,” she wonders. “ I vaguely remember hearing the word, but never knew what it was in.  Surprisingly, it’s in quite a few things.  Gum, mints, candy, toothpaste, mouthwash, OTC drugs, chewable vitamins, and more.  Even athletic clothing!”

PetMD has an article about Xylitol toxicity, which we encourage all pet parents to read.

As for Kussman, her dog’s veterinarian shared that there has been a huge increase in Xylitol ingestion over the past year at their practice. What can you do as a pet parent to prevent Xylitol poisoning in your dog?

  • Read labels carefully. Anything sugar-free should be avoided.
  • Check if Xylitol is contained in any products you purchase. Keep them from your dog’s path, access, or counter surfing.
  • Companies are not warning pet parents, for the most part, that Xylitol can be fatal to dogs.
  • If you must purchase items containing Xylitol, hide them far from a dog’s reach. In our household, we rarely if ever, purchase Xylitol-containing items.

Boomer is home and ready to celebrate the holidays with his family. He has to have his liver checked every two week, with the hope that it will start healing itself and return to 100 percent functionality. He is not quite 4 years old, so both Kussman and the veterinarian are hopeful.

dog cone

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for this story. I knew that artificial sweeteners were bad but this? Just terrible. I keep anything I can out of my dogs’ reach and this is a new one to add to my list. Poor puppy! I sure hope he gets better and better. xo

  2. Thank you Carol and Angela for sharing this article about Boomer. I have met Boomer and can tell you that he is a busy little guy! I am so thankful he is alright. This story is sure to save dog’s lives!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story with us Angela! Great article as usual FidoseofReality! I’m so glad Boomer made it. What a nightmare and a good remind for all of us to spread the word and help our fellow furends prevent a disaster.

  4. Oh no! I hope Boomer recovers fully from Xylitol toxicity. I’m still amazed that there are widely available dog toothpastes that contain xylitol. Some amount is going to be ingested when a dog owner strives to brush their canine companion’s teeth.
    Dr. PM

  5. Thank goodness she got to him in time, although I imagine his age and abilitiy to bounce back helped tremendously! I knew there was something in gum that they couldn’t have, but I didn’t know the name.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Like Dr. Mahaney, I am also surprised that products made for dogs (even some chlorhexidine oral rinses) contain xylitol.

    More and more, pet owners are requesting prescriptions from their veterinarian, so that they can get their medications at the (usually) lower-priced big box stores. One of the underlying dangers with this is that while the medications are the same, the formulations are different. Especially when the medication is a pediatric suspension – kids like things sweet (OK, so do I…), and xylitol is frequently used. If you ever get a liquid medication from a human pharmacy, the onus is on you as the pet owner to question the pharmacist about xylitol. It’s tragic when a liquid antibiotic sends a little dog into liver failure.

    Dr. ML

    • Dr. Michael,

      Thanks for chiming in and sharing this very valuable information. You make a stellar point, too. My dog required an antibiotic earlier this year, and my vet is 2 hours away (we adore our vet). He called a prescription in to our local pharmacy and we needed to be certain there was no Xylitol sweetener in it. Dog parents definitely need to be aware of this, and I thank you for visiting and pointing this out.

  7. My sister’s dog Baloo is now fighting to survive after poisoning with an Ice Breakers box. It is just so sad for a pet so loved and part of our whole family and so upseting the Hersheys company has not made a formal warning ofn Xylitol poisonous effects on animals. Who will be responsible for the pain they had put through our loving Baloo? Not a chance to survive after three days all all ita its organs collapsed. This is so sad and make me think about not just the responsabilities of manufacturing compamy but the chemicals we are taking to our own bodies.

  8. How is Boomer doing now?

    Our three-year-old 65 pound yellow Labrador ate about 35 pieces of the IceCubes gum by Hersheys two days ago. We didn’t figure it out until about four hours after she ate the gum and we noticed her acting weird and walking funny. She threw up about eight of the pieces and then we took her to the emergency pet ER. They induced vomiting and got about 10 more pieces out of her. They kept her overnight and continued to feed her the charcoal to try to induce vomiting but couldn’t get any more out. They kept her on IV fluid and monitored her glucose which was at 33 when we first admitted her & went back up to 120 and stayed there overnight and we took her to her regular vet in the morning to be monitored throughout the day on IVs. She maintained a regular glucose and so they decided to send her home that evening. Which was tonight. They explained to us that there is a chance in the next 5 to 7 days she could go into liver failure and to watch her eyes and gums and ears for bleeding and bruising on her stomach. She looks and acts healthy now that she is back home I’m just in shock to think that she could possibly change and go downhill in a few days. They told us there is a good shot she might not have it happen. They told us there are liver meds but they’re really expensive and they don’t think they really do much good. I’m so scared for our dog and our kids are so sad as we sit by and watch and wait. We feel there is the possibility that she ingested anywhere from 14 to possibly 20 pieces of the gum. This dog is the life of our family and our kids are sickened and scared. We are scheduled to take her back in 5 days to have her blood work checked. Do you have any advice for me? Should we take her in earlier, like 3 days? Wondering if it would possibly start to show up in her blood by then if it will happen. If she does go into liver failure, is it really treatable? They made it sound like there would be blood transfusions, etc but the dog would have to eventually be put down if I understood correctly. I may not have been hearing correctly because I think I was in a state of shock when they were sharing everything with me. I plan to call back the doctor tomorrow and even try to reach out to an old friend that is a vet in another state. I have to make sure I understand and can do what I can to stop this but I also don’t want to spend tons and tons of money to find out that really we cannot save her and we will be putting her down. We have already spent $1,200. We are all praying here for her to magically not have liver problems.
    Thank you for your help!

  9. How is your pup doing? I’m sorry I didn’t see this before now. If she’s doing ok today, then I would say she’s going to be fine in the long term. But I would DEFINITELY have her liver enzymes checked ASAP. I’m surprised they didn’t address her liver when you first took her in because that’s what Xylitol does…it shuts down the liver. The effect is almost immediate. Boomer had to have a plasma transfusion and was on liver drugs for several weeks after to repair the damage.

    So I guess the good news is, if she’s doing well now and not showing any kind of symptoms (lethargy, odd behavior, thirst) then the worst is past. You’re very lucky that you noticed early and took her in. The liver is the only organ that heals itself and regenerates so once the damage is done and the dog survives, they usually recover fully.

    I wrote to Hershey’s telling them what happened to Boomer and sent them several things about Xylitol being lethal to dogs. They sent me back a form letter.

    But definitely get a blood test and test those liver levels. You might also look into giving Milk Thistle (supplement) for a while. It helps heal the liver.

    As far as how Boomer is doing, he’s great! Of course, he didn’t learn his lesson and now goes in search for any kind of gum he can find…digging through purses. But I don’t allow anything containing Xylitol in my house anymore. When people visit, their coats and bags go into a room with the door shut. I had to change my toothpaste and the mints I usually keep around the house. I look at the labels on everything, especially things advertised as being “cooling” or “minty” or “icy.” Xylitol adds that cooling effect to things. One day he got into an old purse of mine that was hanging in my closet and chewed up a container of Tic Tacs. I panicked, but after some searching discovered that Tic Tacs used to contain Xylitol but stopped using it because it killed dogs. If only Hershey’s would follow suit.

    Please let me know how your girl is doing and good luck to you!

    • Sooooo glad to read this update and thanks for taking the time to reply, Angela. Boomer is a little cocker thief isn’t he?

      • Definitely! He even unzips zippers and turns the lining in bags and purses inside out looking for anything he could eat. It’s like he has a GPS for mints and gums hiding in pockets!

        A friend of mine came over and put her backpack in my foyer and a few minutes later, Boomer comes trotting into the kitchen with a bottle of aspirin. She snatched it away from him and said, “That was in an inside zippered pocket! And my backpack was zipped up, too!” Sometimes I wonder if he has secret opposable thumbs. 😀

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