Penelope a 10 month old Scottish terrier puppy belonging to one of our staff members wandered off in the house for about 30 minutes. When she did not return her owners went to investigate and found her sitting in bed with the shredded remains of a package of sugar free gum.
Luckily Penelope’s owners knew about the dangers of sugar free gum and contacted the company for a list of ingredients. As soon as the company listed off that the product was sweetened with xylitol they contacted one of our veterinarians. She recommended bringing Penelope to the hospital to induce vomiting and contact Pet Poison Control.
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. This causes blood sugar levels to plummet resulting in weakness, tremors, and seizures. At high doses xylitol can also react with the liver causing liver tissue to die.
Pet Poison Control was unable to find the exact amount of xylitol in the new flavour of gum the owners had purchased; however based on other gums produced by the company they determined the likely xylitol content of each piece. Pet Poison Control informed us on the monitoring needed and signs to watch for with the dose of xylitol that Penelope received. Unfortunately xylitol is quickly absorbed and does not bind with activated charcoal, so it was also recommended to start monitoring her blood sugar levels and liver values.
Vomiting was induced within a half hour of ingestion and all 14 pieces of chewing gum were accounted for. Penelope’s blood glucose was monitored every hour that night. At 2 am, approximately 8 hours after Penelope decided to get into trouble, her blood glucose dropped below normal. She was rushed back to the hospital for intravenous fluids with dextrose (a sugar solution). It was a full 24 hours after eating the sugar free gum that Penelope was taken off her intravenous fluids. We continued to monitor her blood sugar levels and liver values over the next three days.
Penelope is doing great, but the owners still think about what could have happened if they were not aware of the dangers of sugar free gum. With Penelope’s blood sugar dropping dangerously low in the middle of the night, terrible things could have happened while the owners slept unaware of what was happening with their puppy.