Trivia question: Which dog breed was once considered sacred in China?
Q: I just read a pet blog that stated certain gums and mints can be like a poison for dogs. It said the toxicity is caused by a substitute sugar called xylitol. I looked at the list they posted, and many household products and sugar-free foods contain it. Is it true that it’s pretty dangerous?
A: Xylitol, found in chewing gum, mints and even some types of nut butters (like almond butter), has fewer calories than real sugar and offers benefits for human dental health. It’s also found in some toothpaste and lip balms. Despite the benefits for humans, even small amounts can sicken or kill a dog.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a strong warning for pet owners to keep these products out of reach of dogs.
According to Preventive Vet, an online veterinary resource, Animal Poison Control of the ASPCA received over 4,000 xylitol calls in 2019.
Sugar-free gum, mints and lip balms are commonly found in purses, backpacks and loose in cars. To keep your pets safe, always put items well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that a determined dog can easily chew or rip through zippers and snaps.
Xylitol causes the pancreas in dogs to secrete insulin. The quick release of insulin after eating xylitol causes a dog’s blood sugar levels to drop, sometimes to a life-threatening point.
The FDA’s recent warning made note of nut butters, an item many wouldn’t consider to contain xylitol. Nut butters are sometimes used in training or to coat pills that owners might need to give a dog. The FDA warns owners to read the labels on nut butters carefully to make sure the product doesn’t contain xylitol.
Other common items containing xylitol include some ice creams, many sugar-free gelatin products and some varieties of yogurts and puddings.
Portland-based Preventive Vet has a detailed list of products containing xylitol on its website: www.preventivevet.com. The site also gives tips for quickly assessing your dog’s behavior and health if you feel they’ve ingested this substance.
If you suspect your dog has eaten a product with xylitol, keep the packaging (or what’s left of it) and take your dog to the vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately.
Q: Can dogs and cats get diabetes? Does it affect them like it does humans? If they do become diabetic, will they have to have insulin injections?
A: When it comes to diseases, dogs and cats can have many of the same illnesses that are found in humans. Diabetes mellitus, or sugar diabetes, is a relatively common disease in pets.
We tend to see diabetes in middle aged to older pets, and obesity is typically a major risk factor. It’s interesting to note that diabetes is more common in female dogs and male cats.
A brief explanation of the disease will help answer your questions.
Glucose (sugar) is needed to carry on cellular functions and chemical reactions within the body. It is the fuel that all cells need. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that acts as the “key” to unlock cells to allow glucose to enter and serve its purpose. If the pancreas is not producing insulin in sufficient quantities, or none at all, then the glucose level in the blood will continue to rise since it cannot reach its target area to perform its function. At this point, the body begins to use an alternative fuel source, body fat, and this can lead to a very dangerous condition known as ketosis or ketoacidosis.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes are well-known, such as excessive drinking and urinating, and there’s usually an extreme weight loss despite a good appetite. We also see lethargy, cataracts, coma and even death.
A very small percentage of pets (usually cats only) can be treated with oral medication such as Glipizide, but the majority of patients require insulin injections once or usually twice daily.
This can be a very complicated and challenging disease, and it takes a very dedicated and loving owner to treat a dog or cat for diabetes. It certain cases, it can be very difficult to give twice daily injections to either dogs or cats. Their personality plays a role in how effectively they can be treated. It is possible for well-regulated diabetic pets to live a relatively normal life.
If you suspect that your pet may be diabetic, get him or her to your veterinarian right away. All that’s required for a diagnosis are some laboratory tests involving blood and urine.