/ 13 January 2019

Xylitol is a common sugar substitute. It is often found in sugar-free sweets, peanut butter, chewing gum, chocolate, jellies and jams. Despite the rising popularity, few people know that xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. It causes a rapid drop in a dog’s blood glucose level and can cause life-threatening liver failure. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) handle around 300 cases each year.

Ruth and Eamonn meet Kate Chacksfield, whose beloved dog Ruby stole two homemade brownies from the kitchen counter in October 2018. Previously, the dog had eaten brownies with no real consequence, yet this time xylitol had been used as a substitute for sugar. 36 hours after Ruby consumed the baked goods, she was vomiting and collapsed. The first vet she was taken to did not consider that she had been poisoned by xylitol and it was only when she was transferred to the Royal Veterinary College Hospital that it was mentioned as a probable cause. Seven year old Ruby spent eight days battling for her life in intensive care but sadly passed away.

Dr Nicola Robinson  is a vet and Head of Service at the VPIS and joins Kate, Eammon and Ruth in the studio. The VPIS is the only animal poison centre in the UK and VPIS have recently introduced an Animal PoisonLine (APL) helpline (This costs £30 per call, but will be refunded if the owner takes their pet to vet and the vet calls VPIS for treatment advice). Dr Robinson warns that 70% of xylitol calls are about chewing gum, with just one piece containing enough xylitol to poison a 10kg dog. She says that, with all pet poisons, “the sooner the treatment, the better the chance of survival.” Sadly, Ruby only started receiving treatment 36 hours after she had ingested the brownies which was too late, since xylitol gets absorbed rapidly.

As xylitol is a relatively ‘new trend’, having been put forward as a healthy alternative to sugar in the past few years only, a large number of vets have only recently learned that it poses a threat to pets. An even larger number of owners are still unaware of the potentially fatal consequences if their dog ingests it.

For more information concerning VPIS, visit their helpline at www.vpisglobal.com

For more information concerning the Animal PoisonLine, visit www.animalpoisonline.co.uk

If you’d like to download the Animal Poison Line Xylitol Information poster, download here