Hub Pages May Have Saved My Dog's Life
In the Blink of an Eye
Before I go into Roxy's story, let me give a shout-out to the hub that quite possibly saved her life: Mrs. Menagerie's Xylitol: Sugarfree Gum Can Kill Your Dog! I was hub hopping one night and came upon this particular hub. Frankly, I didn't believe it. I've been a dog owner for decades, and have even been active now for three years in a dog rescue group. And I had never heard of xylitol being so deadly that 2-3 sticks of chewing gum could kill a dog. After all Roxy, one of my own dogs, regularly tried to raid my purse for gum (she loves mint) and has been successful on more than one occasion. Before I even rated Mrs. Menagerie's hub, I confess I went to Snopes to see if this was just a rumor. It was not. There are documented cases all over the Internet about people losing their beloved dogs to xylitol poisoning. I rated the hub up, posted the info on Facebook for my friends who might not know this, looked up what brands contained xylitol (not the brands I chewed, thankfully, that is why we had experienced no problems), and basically didn't think about this any more.
Till Sunday. My parents had come to church with us to be present for a special service honoring the church's high school graduates (of which my son is one). Afterward, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch out. We debated staying in town or driving to the next town, and in the end decided to stay local (gas prices, you know!). I was unaware that after I went to the car, my son's girlfriend asked if she should bring her purse or leave it at the house. My son told her it was fine where it was, so she left it on a table in our entryway.
We enjoyed a lovely lunch and returned home within the hour. As soon as I opened the front door, I smelled mint. I was confused because I knew my own purse and gum had been with me. But then I saw the wrappers all over the floor, and the contents of Sarah's purse scattered about the living room. My heart started pounding as I realized the gum wrappers were Stryde brand, one of the brands that contains xylitol. There were remnants of two packages on the floor, and I tried to stay calm while asking Sarah how much gum had been left in each pack. My heart just sank as she told me one had never been opened and the other only had about four pieces missing. Xylitol gum ingestion has been known to be fatal to 30-pound dogs at a dose of 2-3 sticks. Roxy, 45 pounds, had just eaten 24 sticks.
To Induce Vomiting in a Dog
I knew the first thing to do would be try to induce vomiting. Years ago we had a dog who had eaten a bag of Dove Chocolates, and our vet had us use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. I looked up the procedure and dose online. If you every need to do this with your own dog, try to get them to eat first. Extra food in the stomach helps the animal vomit more effectively. Roxy has always eaten everything in sight (obviously) so it was no problem to quickly get her to gobble a bowl of food. One never knows how much to trust Internet sources for things such as medication doses, but I found more than one site stating the dosage for a dog is 3-5 cc per 20 pounds of body weight (approximately 3/4 to 1 teaspoon) of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. You are supposed to get the liquid to the back of the dog's throat, where he or she has no choice but to swallow. The suggested method for doing that is to use a medication syringe. I did not have one, but I did have an old hollow-handled spoon I used to use to give my kids Tylenol. I poured 10 cc into the spoon handle, took Roxy outside, tilted her head back, pried her mouth open and poured the liquid down the back of her throat. I held her muzzle shut till she swallowed. Instant success! Roxy vomited four times, and each pile was full of gum and wrappers (and quite fragrantly minty!).
How Does Xylitol Harm a Dog?
Xylitol is a wonderfully after taste-free sugar substitute found in certain sugarfree gums, mints, cookies and candies. It does not have an adverse effect on human glucose levels, or most other animals. Cats do not seem to be affected by it. But it is deadly to dogs. Xylitol causes harm on basically two fronts: 1. It causes an immediate hyper production of insulin, therefore a drastic drop in blood sugar; and 2. It can cause liver failure. Liver damage is not immediately evident, but the liver can slowly stop functioning effectively to the point of complete shutdown. And the dog's blood clotting factor can be seriously affected by the non-functioning liver. Liver damage is easier to prevent than reverse, and the cost of both can be prohibitive (with no guaranteed results).
Time is of the essence with xylitol poisoning, as the insulin production overload can begin in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion. The tragedy of this is that many people have no idea that their dog has eaten gum (or the wrong brand of gum) and don't know why the dog is lethargic or having other symptoms. By the time the culprit is discovered, it is often too late for effective treatment.
Where it Stands with Roxy
After Roxy vomited, I was still concerned as we had been gone for nearly an hour. It looked like all the gum came back up, but I did not know how much might have already been absorbed into her system. Since she had eaten such a large amount, I called a 24-hour vet hospital for guidance. They wanted me to bring Roxy in and have her under observation for the next 48 hours at a minimum. During that time they were going to monitor her blood glucose level continually, and administer glucose if necessary. They would also be checking liver enzymes, and at the first sign of elevation, they would begin preventive treatment for the liver. I live an hour from the hospital, and asked her what I should do if Roxy had a sugar crisis while we were driving there. The woman on the phone told me to take a bottle of honey with me to squeeze into her mouth, but that would "buy me 1/2 hour at best."
I thought that was about as scared as I could get, but then I asked her what the average cost for the next 48 hours of suggested treatment would be. She said depending on the outcome anywhere from $1,200 to $1,800. I simply hung up the phone. We are not in a financial position to spend nearly $2,000 on something that is not even a guaranteed outcome, no matter how much we love our dog.
Symptoms of Blood Glucose Crisis and Liver Issues
It has now been 54 hours since "the incident" and although she was not as peppy as normal through that first evening, Roxy seems completely normal right now. She has continued to eat and drink normally, and never had any of the serious symptoms we were supposed to be watching for. These include:
(First 12-24 hours for Blood Glucose Issues)
- Excessive sleepiness
- Unsteady Gait
- "Glazed eye" Appearance
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Seizures or Convulsion
(Next 72 Hours)
- Loss of Appetite
- No Thirst or Excessive Thirst
- Abdominal Swelling
- Yellowish Tinge to Whites of Eyes
- Yellowish Tinge to Gums
The Waiting Game
I believe in my heart (because I have to) we got to Roxy fast enough that she will not suffer ill effects. It's possible she had just polished off that gum as we walked in the door, and that is what I have to go with for now. So far, so good, but I know we are not through the liver issue gauntlet as far as our time frame. But it seems to me that since Roxy did NOT have the blood glucose issues, it makes no sense that only her liver would be affected. Time will tell, but I'm feeling very positive.
Help Spread the News!
I can't thank Mrs. Menagerie enough for writing her hub. If I had NOT read about the xylitol issues, I would have come home from that lunch, rolled my eyes that Roxy had snagged some more gum, and gone about my day. And she would be gone.
Prevention is obviously the best weapon we have. I'm very careful to keep my purse up and zipped, yet even the most careful person gets distracted and slips up. And a smart dog who is watching never misses an opportunity to grab what she wants. Sarah feels terrible that Roxy got the gum, but holy cow, she didn't know! It was just one of those things. But now we will have to be even more vigilant because Roxy will remember she likes the stuff Sarah keeps in her purse.
Personally, I never buy the gum that contains xylitol. Or if I do I only keep it at work or places where no dogs could accidentally get to it. But education can equal prevention. So make sure all the dog lovers in your life know about this deadly ingredient. And if you get a chance, stop by and thank Mrs. Menagerie for sharing a couple of months ago!
If You Think Your Dog Has Ingested Poison
The ASPCA pet poison control service is there for you 24 hours a day. But be advised if you use the service they ask for a $65 dollar "donation". It is for a good cause, so if you can afford the fee, it is an excellent first resource.