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Curiosity That Almost Killed The Puppy

Posted 07.27.17 by Kassie Newton, DVM

Taz was a happy normal little puppy without a care in the world. His one vice: he loved to eat things, just as many puppies do. However, one day his curiosity got the best of him.

Taz came to see us at The Pet Hospitals when he was not acting himself. He had vomiting, diarrhea, wasn’t eating, and had very little energy. During the exam he was very weak and his eyes and ears were yellow in appearance. In medical terms this is something called icterus (or jaundice in people) and usually means something is wrong with the liver. I could tell immediately that this was something very serious, and had come up very quickly as well.

What is the next best step that we might do to test his liver?

If you are thinking run some bloodwork, you got it! Oftentimes we will recommend labwork as it gives us a picture of what is going on inside where we cannot see. We call it our “internal exam”. For Taz we immediately ran labwork and found he was in multi-organ failure. His liver and kidneys were completely shutting down. In addition to that he had very low blood counts and his electrolytes, which are very important to help with hydration and maintain normal body function, were all out of line. In other words, this puppy was gravely ill and needed immediate help. If not he was going to die.

What do you think we might recommend next?

The next step: keeping him in the hospital and placing him on medicine and fluids to help his organs out. Way to go! We immediately started giving him fluids, electrolytes, and placed him on multiple medications to try to help protect and recover his organs that were failing. We knew this was going to be an hour by hour, day by day case. Poor Taz was very, very sick.

So what happened already????

Thankfully, after many days in the hospital and the continued dedicated care of his family, Taz made a complete recovery!!! Today he is a very healthy puppy that has made a full recovery from his ordeal and he couldn’t be happier! Just look at that face!

So what made him so sick?

Taz got so sick because he had eaten 2 cough drops. That’s right – 2 small, seemingly harmless cough drops that his owner was taking when he had a sore throat. But why did that make him so sick? These particular cough drops contained an ingredient called xylitol. This is an artificial sweetener that is being used more and more to help flavor foods or medications. It started off being used mostly in sugar-free gum. While it is still very popular with this use, it has spread and we have now seen is present in other gums, candies, some human medications, and now certain types of peanut butter! You can also purchase it as a powder to use in cooking or baking at home as well.

Why is Xylitol so bad?

Dogs cannot metabolize xylitol like people do, and it is dangerous in extremely small quantities. A single piece of gum can be extremely toxic in a small dog! In large dogs 3-4 pieces is all it takes.

Almost immediately the xylitol tricks a dog’s body into thinking they just ate a bunch of sugar, so within 30-60 minutes they will experience an extreme dip in blood sugar, something called hypoglycemia. This will cause weakness, vomiting, collapse, and possibly seizures. While most dogs experience symptoms within the first couple of hours, it can be 12-24hrs in some circumstances. If a dog makes it through the immediate danger of this, 2-4 days later it can cause failure in either or both the liver and the kidneys. So sadly this is something that can cause extreme damage to a dog, as we saw with Taz. Sometimes despite doing everything possible dogs can still die from this.

As an interesting note, to date there has been no findings of this affecting cats. They seem to metabolize it like people do and we have not experienced any side effects of a cat getting into this substance.

My dog just ate some – What do I do???

It is vital that you IMMEDIATELY seek veterinary care. If it is within the 30-60 minutes we will induce vomiting to get them to throw the gum back up. Since it can get into their system quickly we will see check their blood glucose several times in the next few hours to make sure it doesn’t start dropping. If they are already showing symptoms then we will supplement their sugar to avoid symptoms and keep them in the hospital likely for the next 24 hours. We will also want to check bloodwork 2-4 days after this to make sure their liver is okay and it isn’t causing any systemic effects. If you dog does experience the organ damage, they will be hospitalized for a longer period of time and placed on supportive medications and fluids to try to get them through the crisis. Unfortunately there is no antidote or easy treatment for this toxicity.


Dr. Kassie Newton

The Pet Hospitals– Collierville

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