Xylitol Poisoning: Candy Canes Really Can Kill Your Pooch

Posted by Christy Caplan
Xylitol Poisoning

Can dogs get sick and even die from eating candy canes? The answer is yes. A pet owner in Texas shares a warning with a local news station after her dog, Harleigh, ate sugar-free candy canes and the next day passed away. She was limp and sick after ingesting Xylitol which causes liver failure and hypoglycemia.

What is Xylitol? It's the sugar-free sweetener often found in gum and peanut butter. According to the Preventive Vet, Xylitol poisons well over 6,000 dogs each year!  

This is a warning for other pet owners as having food that contains Xylitol in the house is all too common. This Texas dog was brought into the clinic showing signs of Xylitol toxicity.

"Somehow I feel like I failed her by leaving candy canes on the table," Harleigh's owner, Darla Martinez, of Groves, Texas, told 12 News. 

Xylitol Toxicity
Chihuahua-mix named Harleigh via wbir.com

There are over 700 products that contain Xylitol. The categories range from gum, candies, and mints (lollipops!) to peanut and nut butters. We all fill Kongs with peanut butter, so this is a very important list to consider and review before shopping for toy fillers.

If you suspect your dog ingested candy or gum, immediately head to your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic. Symptoms can include:

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Walking drunk
  • Depression
  • Acute collapse
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Racing heart rate
  • Trembling or tremoring
  • Jaundiced gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Black-tarry stool
  • Bruising
  • Clotting problems
  • Abnormal mentation

Our Best Advice? 

Dogs With Candy Canes

Inducing vomiting is NOT always the right thing to do, so you need to call your vet first and ask about how best to proceed. Some items will do more harm if they are vomited so be careful! 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) tells us,

"Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may apply). Be prepared to provide your pet's breed, age, weight and any symptoms. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made."

Great resources include the AVMA's pet poison tips, an important site for pet parents. And the ASPCA Poison Control Center: www.aspca.org/apcc. 

The pet poison helpline is a contact number you should have saved in your contact list!

Since xylitol toxicity can cause both low blood glucose and low potassium levels, the vet will do blood work to rule out a number of things. Signs of hypoglycemia and even severe hypoglycemia are common. It is important to share with your vet or dvm how much Xylitol they potentially got into it and what the food was they ingested. Was it sugar-free chewing gum like Trident, chewable vitamins, or breath mints? All of these have the potential to have toxic effects.

Your dog will require hospitalization for blood sugar monitoring, dextrose administration, iv fluids, liver protectants, and any other supportive care that may be needed. Your dog will likely need critical care. Write down the symptoms of xylitol poisoning you see and let your vet know immediately. Large amounts of vomiting and diarrhea are a vet emergency.

Xylitol ingestion is very serious! It doesn't matter what the body weight is of your dog and even large dogs can ingest enough to make them very sick.

Do you have any experiences with Xylitol toxicity? If you'd like to share your story, please leave a comment below. 

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Xylitol Poisoning: Candy Canes Really Can Kill Your Pooch