A couple of days ago, I hiked the White Rocks Trail with Bowie and his doggy friends. I noticed that when Bowie stopped to poop his stool was incredibly loose and came out almost like a fountain. Before you say "ew gross", there is so much can be learned about a dog's health from their poo. Bowie has a pretty sensitive digestive tract and is on a special diet for this, so I assumed if anything, he was having a small reaction to a new peanut butter treat. We finished the 6 mile hike and drove home. Normally Bowie will sleep for about an hour and then be ready to go again, but this time that was not the case.
I was sitting down at the computer and from the other room heard 2 hissing noises. I walked into the living room where the dogs had been resting, and Bowie had laid explosive diarrhea all over the carpet. He is fully potty trained but I could tell.. this was the uncontrollable kind of diarrhea. I let Bowie outside and he proceeded to poo some more. I spent the next 4 hours cleaning the carpet, watching Bowie closely for other signs of illness, and making sure he was comfortable.
Bowie laid down in his crate with the door open and got up very infrequently for small sips of water. I fed him a small dinner with some pumpkin, and since we noticed him shivering, we covered him with a blanket. Around his muzzle it felt exceptionally cold. He mostly just laid there and slept, not even opening his eyes when hearing the crinkle of the food bag.
Later that night, things became clearer when Bowie threw up and we found several clumps of blue bubble gum in the pile of puke. Most candy is not good for dogs, but gum and especially sugar-free gum, contains a very harmful sugar substitute (sugar alcohol) called Xylitol. While it is harmless to humans, it can cause a variety of uncomfortable and life-threatening symptoms in dogs depending on the dosage.
We pieced together that Bowie potentially found and consumed this gum at a dog park we attended the day prior. There were probably 50-75 people and dogs in attendance and it would have been easy for him to find a piece of gum in that scenario.
"Clinical signs of xylitol toxicity can develop in as few as 30 minutes after ingestion. Clinical signs may include one or more of the following:
- Ataxia/"Drunken walking" (uncoordinated movements)
- Coma and death if untreated"
The more severe issues caused by large quanities of Xylitol consumption in dogs can be permanent liver damage, coma, hypoglycemia, and even death. A dose of 10.5 sticks of gum, less than you would find in a typical pack of gum, would have been enough to cause these symptoms and possible death to Bowie.
We are lucky that Bowie threw up the gum that he ate because this removes any additional Xylitol from being digested into his system. We are also lucky that Bowie is a big dog of nearly 80 lbs. A small dog (10-20 pounds) could be affected lethally by as little as 1.5 sticks of sugar-free gum.
Xylitol poisoning in dogs causes hypoglycemia meaning that their blood sugar drops to extremely low levels. The brain requires glucose (blood sugar) for normal functioning and it can be hard for the dog to maintain balance and walk. The liver, as it tries to clean the blood and stabilize, will be poisoned by the Xylitol and this will result in hepatic necrosis. Low blood sugar can cause seizures and coma, which may eventually lead to death if treatment is not quickly received.
Main course of veterinary treatment involves:
- Knowing how much gum the dog ate and how long ago
- Inducing vomiting to prevent further absorption
- Raising the blood sugar, if needed, by using an intravenous dextrose drip
- Give certain medications to help protect the liver from damage
If this information about Xylitol is news to you, and you have a dog at home, perhaps our experience will convince you to move your chewing gum to a cabinet or a high shelf instead of the kitchen counter or a bedroom table. It's so simple for a dog to get ahold of this substance that could without a doubt kill them.
We are lucky that Bowie has made a full recovery. It took several days, but he now has a normal energy level and seems to have recovered his zest for life (as well as his appetite). He also has a normal stool, thank goodness.
Hug your pups tight!
Until next time....