Xylitol is a sugar substitute used in many products today. Particularly diabetic foods (especially baked goods), gums, candies, drinks and low-calorie chocolate products. In humans it will not cause insulin release and it seems to have some effect at reducing the incidence of dental caries. This is why it is used in these products, especially chewing gums. In dogs however it causes severe depression of blood sugar, as it causes the release of large amounts of insulin in their systems. Until recently this was the only effect we were aware of in dogs.
Recently they have been seeing cases of dogs in severe liver failure due to xylitol as well. If a dog has taken in enough of a product with xylitol in it they will begin to vomit within just a couple of hours. They then rapidly progress to severe depression, collapse and seizures. These dogs will become extremely ill and will require hospitalization and intensive care if there is any hope to pull them through. Apparently the xylitol present in chewing gum takes longer to have its effects, and it may be a couple of days before the dog becomes really ill. In the cases we have been reading about they have had to euthanize the dogs due to the severity of their illness and the poor prognosis for recovery.
It does not take much of this product to make a dog severely ill and it should be kept out of their reach at all times! Be especially vigilant of children and their sugar-free chewing gum, as many will dispose of it by throwing it away. So you kids… please throw your gum into the garbage when you are done with it, don’t just spit it out!