Xylitol: A Hidden Holiday Danger for Pets

Can you spot the Xylitol in this photo?
…Neither can your pet.

What do the fruitcake you made for your diabetic great-aunt Betty, the pack of gum in your stocking, and the plate of holiday cookies that your neighbor dropped off have in common? All of them may contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol, a dangerous and deadly substance for dogs. Xylitol is becoming more and more commonly utilized, which makes it important for pet owners to be on the defense.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is found in items such as sugar-free gum, baked goods, and oral hygiene products. In people it is absorbed very slowly so there are no ill effects. In dogs, however, the substance is absorbed within 30 minutes, causing the body to release a large rush of insulin. This results in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar. Besides this, Xylitol can also have severe effects on the liver. Continue…

Have a Happy, Safe Holiday Season!

Oakland Veterinary Referral Service wishes you and your furry family a very happy, and above all safe, holiday season this year!  Don’t forget the following during your festivities this year:

  • Dangerous objects

Christmas trees, holiday decorations, and wrapped gifts can all be dangerous items that your pet is not used to having around.  Keep decorations and candles out of the reach of playful paws and wagging tails.  Decorative ribbons, string, and tinsel should also be kept away from pets.  Electrical cords can pose a danger as pets may chew on them or become tangled in them.  Before bringing any plants into your home, be sure to check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to avoid problems.

  • Hazardous treats

Food and goodies of all kinds abound this time of year!  Beware of treats containing chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.  Table scraps, particularly those that are fatty or rich, can cause stomach upset ranging from mild vomiting or diarrhea to severe pancreatitis.  Don’t forget about alcohol, either.  That punch or eggnog might be irresistible to your pet, but can cause serious problems upon ingestion.

  • Scary situations

Pets don’t always take to the holidays like humans do.  A houseful of noisy strangers can be a disturbing event for shyer animals.  Make sure that they have a quiet, safe place to “hide” away from the hub-bub.  It is also a good idea to make sure that all pets are wearing identification and/or are micro-chipped with your current contact information in case they slip out the door with Uncle Bob.

Anaplasmosis: The OTHER Tick Disease

Pretty much everybody has heard of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  But did you know that there was another type of tick-borne disease that affects dogs called Anaplasmosis?  Here is what you need to know:

  • Anaplasmosis is becoming increasingly more common.
  • The disease is sometimes called Ehrlichiosis.
  • The deer tick is responsible for most the Anaplasmosis in the northeast and upper Midwest, which the black-legged tick is the culprit in the western United States.
  • The bacteria transmitted by the tick attacks the white blood cells and spreads throughout the body, often affecting platelets witch interferes with blood clotting.
  • Symptoms of infection can include fever, lethargy, and painful, swollen joints.  Other less consistent signs are swollen lymph nodes, eye problems, or bleeding.
  • Blood testing can confirm the disease.
  • Most dogs can be successfully treated with a specific antibiotic, although they can relapse or become re-infected.

As if you needed another reason to use tick prevention!  Be sure to protect your dog from exposure to Anaplasmosis.

Hot Dog! (and hamburger, and potato salad, and cheesecake…)

Pets are often a part of our summertime gatherings, and we often feel the need to include them.  This usually means that they partake in the rich meals we associate with these parties.  Besides an upset tummy, potential exposure to toxic foods such as chocolate or grapes, or ingestion of dangerous items such as bones, there is another danger when your pet overeats:  pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that is responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.  Pancreatitis can be brought on by many causes, sometimes unknown, however overindulgence does seem to trigger it in some dogs.  Signs of pancreatitis can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and/or fever.  Flares can range from mild and self-limiting to severe and requiring hospitalization and intensive care.  Very bad cases can cause scarring of the pancreas, resulting in diabetes mellitus.

The safest bet is to limit the amount of “people food” you pet is allowed.  Find other ways to include your four-legged friend this summer!

If you think your dog may have eaten something he shouldn’t have be sure to let your veterinarian know, or give us a call.