Hello, again! I’m back (from outer space) and I have a weird hat on my head! I think it’s called a “turban” but I am certainly not pleased with it – unfortunately, all the humans I work with have decided it is “cute” and keep it around. They put it on me on Halloween, I’m assuming as a joke, of course.
There are two deadly effects of xylitol consumption: hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis.
Hypoglycemia – In the canine body, the pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin to store the “sugar.” The problem is that xylitol does not offer the extra calories of sugar and the rush of insulin only serves to remove the real sugar from the circulation. Blood sugar levels plummet resulting in weakness, disorientation, tremors, and potentially seizures. It does not take many sticks of gum or hard candy pieces to poison a dog, especially a small dog! Symptoms typically begin within 30 minutes and can last for more than 12 hours. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.
Hepatic Necrosis – The other reaction associated with xylitol in the canine body is destruction of liver tissue. How this happens remains unknown but the doses of xylitol required to produce this effect are much higher than the hypoglycemic doses described above. Signs take longer to show up (typically 8-12 hours). A lucky dog experiences only temporary illness but a complete and acute liver failure can result with potential death. Internal hemorrhage and inability of blood to clot is commonly involved.
So how much xylitol is dangerous? The hypoglycemic dose of xylitol for dogs is considered to be approximately 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (about 0.045 grams per pound). A typical stick of gum contains 0.3 to 0.4 grams of xylitol, which means that a 10 lb dog could be poisoned by as little as a stick and a half of gum.
The dose to cause hepatic necrosis is 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, about ten times more than the above dose. In the example above, the 10 lb dog would have to find an unopened package of gum and eat it for liver destruction to occur. To treat for xylitol ingestion, the pet should be seen quickly (within 30 minutes) and can be made to vomit the gum or candy.
But, Mason! What about cats? So far, National Animal Poison Control has no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats. At this time, feline toxicity is unknown. Which means that just because we don’t know the risks doesn’t mean you should feed your cat any gum or hard candies!
Here are approximate toxic levels of different types of chocolate:
- 4 to 10 ounces of milk chocolate or 1/2 to 1 ounce of baking chocolate for small dogs, such as Chihuahuas and toy poodles.
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 2 to 3 ounces of baking chocolate for medium-sized dogs, like cocker spaniels and dachshunds.
- 2 to 4 1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 4 to 8 ounces of baking chocolate for large dogs, including collies and Labrador retrievers.
The toxic dose of Theobromine (and caffeine) for pets is 100-200mg/kg. (1 kiliogram = 2.2 pounds). However, according to the poison control center at the ASPCA, problems have been noted at doses much lower than this, such as 20mg/kg. Translated to a “typical” scenario, and using the 20mg/kg as a measure of “problems can be seen at this level of ingestion”, a 50 pound dog would have to consume 9 ounces (+/-) of milk chocolate to consume the 20mg/kg amount of Theobromine. Some dogs won’t see problems at this rate. Some may. This is a much more conservative toxic level calculation than the “standard” of 100-200mg/kg, but better safe than sorry.
The signs of chocolate toxicity are most commonly seen within 12 hours (or less) of chocolate ingestion, such as:
- Excitement / nervousness / trembling
- Vomiting / diarrhea
- Excessive thirst / sometimes excessive urination (at higher levels of Theobromine toxicity)
- Muscle spasms
- Coma (rare
- Death (rare) — likely due to heart rhythm abnormalities.
So, you may be wondering what to do if your pet eats any candy or sweets this holiday season? Call us, of course! We are here to help you and will take great care of your kitty or doggie in the event of a chocolate emergency. Remember, the best prevention is to not have these things available to your pet, so putting your candy away in high cabinets or even in another room is a great idea. Never leave candy or goodies out where your pet can reach them, even if your pets are trained not to jump onto tables or counter tops. And while you are cooking up those amazing and yummy holidays feasts, never leave your pet alone while you are making things – dogs have a tendency to gobble up ingredients right off the counters! (Such bad manners…)Well, this has been very educational and all, but I feel a nap coming on. I will talk to you all again soon!Til next meow,