It can be difficult to keep track of all the sugar substitutes these days and to really understand the health implications of each of them and how well they really work for people with diabetes. One of the substitues that you will find in a lot of sugar free gums is called Xylitol. You might be thinking from the title of my post that Xylitol is another one of those cancer causing sweeteners like Saccharin (SweetN' Low, Sugar Twin), but in actuality, Xylitol has been proven to be safe for human consumption. In addition, it has been proven to have little to no effect on blood sugar levels, so is a great option for people with diabetes. As you might guess, my distinction is "Human Consumption", as Xylitol can be DEADLY in dogs!
Our sweet Penny (Chi-weenie) above will eat just about any human food (i.e veggies, fruits, meats, ect), but her obsession is gum. Her snout can sniff out any gum anywhere. She actually will chew it like a human, before consuming. Little did I know that sugar-free gum with Xylitol was deadly to dogs, until her incident with a pack of Trident Gum with Xylitol. Since I have been medically TRAINEDbyINSULIN and religiously understand the balancing act of blood sugar levels, I was immediately cast as Murse (male nurse) to the rescue. My wife was frantic because we found empty gum rappers on the floor in the living room. It only took one sniff of Penny's normally horrid breath to determine her minty freshness was not normal. I knew it was going to be a long night!
When dogs consumer Xylitol, their bodies cannot recognize it as "fake sugar" and their bodies will release insulin as if they consumed real sugar. This bodily response will in turn plummets their blood sugar levels, which can lead to death. Much in the same way it would happen in humans with an insulin overdose (Yes, I know, Penny and I have been in similar situations).
Since I had an old blood glucose monitor and finger stick, we decided to check Penny's blood sugar levels. Not sure if anyone has tried to test a dogs blood sugar, but they dont have fingers to prick. The tactile part of trying to figure out how to get that first blood sample was somewhat trial and error and more error on our part. As soon as I was able to get a blood drop by turning my old lancet to its highest setting and drawing blood from her hind leg/hip area, we found her blood sugar low in the 60's mg/ml. We continued to test every twenty minutes for the first hour until it stabilized in the low 80's. Then we testing every hour or two throughout the night to make sure it didn't crash.
The part I cannot clearly remember was if we gave her some Pedialyte this time around or if that was for her spider bite or bee sting? Yes, she gets into a lot precarious situations that end up costing a lot of money. Anyways. Some sites we read said giving them food or something with sugar, would just release more insulin into their system and be a net neutral/negative. So please consult your veterinarian for what to do if this happens to your pet. The lesson here is we NEVER buy any gum with Xylitol, it just isn't worth the risk, so think about that if you have a pooch that wants fresh breath. Probably our faults because we always tease Penny for having horrifically bad breath.