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Your Toothpaste Can Kill Your Dog! Here’s How.

by | Dec 2, 2016 | Pet Lifestyle

“My baby has perfect oral hygiene. He brushes his teeth daily. I love him so much. We both even share the same toothpaste.” When you talk to pet parents as often as I do, you tend to hear things like these every few days. Maintaining your pooch’s oral hygiene is great. But NEVER use the same toothpaste as yours.

Toothpastes contain a substance called Xylitol. It’s what gives the sweet taste to your toothpaste. While it’s completely safe and arguably healthy for hoomans, it’s absolutely toxic for dogs. Xylitol is almost 100 times more toxic than chocolate for dogs. Xylitol toxicity can occur at a dosage of 100 mg per kg of body weight. A typical toothpaste may contain 5 – 35% xylitol by volume. Hence, a standard 100 gm toothpaste tube is enough to make your dog very sick.

What is Xylitol and why is it in my toothpaste?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that is widely used as a sugar substitute. Chemically, it is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in berries, plums, corn, oats, mushrooms, lettuce, trees, and some other hardwood trees and fruits. Commercially, most xylitol is extracted from corn fiber, birch trees, hardwood trees and other vegetable material. Although it has been used as a sugar substitute for decades, its popularity has increased dramatically in the last few years.

Xylitol is about as sweet as sucrose, but contains only about two-thirds of the calories. As a sugar substitute, it is lower on the glycemic index, a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood sugar levels compared to glucose. Being lower on the glycemic index makes xylitol useful for diabetics or people on low carbohydrate diets. Almost all commercial “Sugar-free” products are sweetened using xylitol.

With respect to oral health, research has shown that xylitol helps reduce the formation of plaque, inhibits dental cavities, and stimulates the production of saliva in humans.

Why is Xylitol toxic for dogs?

In both hoomans and dawgies, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. Xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas in humans. However, when non-primate species (e.g., a dog) eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.  This rapid release of insulin results in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that occurs within 10-60 minutes of consuming xylitol. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening.

How to detect Xylitol Poisoning?

Symptoms of xylitol toxicity develop rapidly, usually within 15-30 minutes of consumption. Signs of hypoglycemia may include any or all of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination or difficulty walking or standing (walking like drunk)
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

In severe cases, the dog may develop seizures or liver failure, which can lead to almost instant death.

What should I do if my dog has eaten something with Xylitol?

Quick and aggressive treatment of xylitol poisoning is essential to effectively reverse any toxic effects and prevent the development of severe problems. If you have a case of xylitol poisoning, contact an emergency veterinarian immediately. The sooner you act, the better chances you stand to save your pooch.

If your dog has just eaten xylitol, try and induce vomiting to prevent any further absorption in the bloodstream. If the symptoms of poisoning have started to surface, the treatment will depend on the symptoms being shown and your dog’s glucose levels. Since xylitol toxicity can cause both low blood glucose and low potassium levels, your veterinarian will perform blood work to determine whether these problems need to be treated. In all cases, your dog will require hospitalization for blood sugar monitoring, dextrose administration, intravenous fluids, liver protectants, and any other supportive care that may be needed. Blood work should be monitored frequently to make sure that blood sugar and liver function remain normal.

If not for this, how do I ensure my dog’s oral hygiene?

If your dog is eating the right kind of food and has a healthy water intake, he doesn’t need any product for oral care. Have you ever seen the wolves or other animals in the wild brushing their teeth?

If you’re really particular about it though, consult your veterinary expert for a dawgie-friendly toothpaste brand or YouTube recipes for DIY dawgie-toothpaste.

What other products contain Xylitol?

Beside toothpastes, xylitol is widely used in mouthwashes, gums, candies, breath mints, baked goods, cough syrups, children’s chewable vitamins, etc. Basically, anything that reads ‘sugar-free’, ‘low-calorie’, ‘diabetic-friendly’ should be avoided for your pooch and should be kept out of their reach.

Got questions? Call us at 9452 666 222 or leave them in comments below.

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