Lila's Story - Xylitol Toxicity

Did you know that chocolate is toxic to your pet? How about raisins? Chewing gum? SometimesLila pet owners have to find out the hard way. But 7-month-old, Lila, from Stamford was lucky.

When Lila got into some chewing gum one Sunday night, her owners became concerned. And for good reason. As it turns out, the xylitol in chewing gum and other candy can be lethal to dogs and cats. Lila’s owners rushed her to Cornell University Veterinary Specialists (CUVS). She arrived at CUVS about an hour and a half after she had eaten 38 pieces of Ice Breakers gum.

Lila was seen in the Emergency Service by Dr. DeCillis, a seasoned emergency clinician, and then transferred to Dr. Mazzaferro, a board-certified critical care specialist who is internationally renowned and a leader in her field. On arrival, Lila showed signs of early shock. Her blood glucose (sugar) level was already low and she was at risk for having a seizure. She also already had significant elevations of her liver enzymes, a concern for impending liver failure.

Aggressive treatment was initiated immediately. This included intravenous dextrose, an intravenous medication aimed to mitigate the effects of the toxin, and medications to support liver function. She was hospitalized, with ongoing therapy and close monitoring. With fast action and the best veterinary critical care, Lila responded well, her blood glucose normalized and liver enzyme elevations decreased, and she was discharged back to her family in just a few days. She is now back to her happy go-lucky puppy self.

Lila could have died. And without immediate medical care, she would have. Sugarless gum products (Ice Breakers, Orbitz, Trident, and Nicorette), some toothpastes, and other sugarless products (including some liquid formulations of prescription drugs) all contain xylitol. At lower doses (100 mg/kg of xylitol), dogs can become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). At higher doses, they can develop liver failure which is fatal. The amount of xylitol in each piece of gum is proprietary and varies from product to product, so pet owners need to be diligent. Ingestion of even one piece of gum for a small dog can be fatal if left untreated.

Clinical signs of toxicity, which can occur within 10-15 minutes of ingestion, can include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, difficulty walking, seizures, mental dullness, and/or coma. If liver failure is present, signs can also include bruising of the skin, bleeding from the gums or nose, black tarry stool, and yellow discoloration of the skin/gums/whites of the eyes (jaundice). Any gum ingestion should prompt veterinary attention without delay.

Pet owners, even the most dedicated, loving and savvy don’t always know the dangers lurking in foods and other items in their home. In addition to xylitol, alcohol, walnuts, onions and garlic, mushrooms, grapes, raisins and many plants are among the wide array of items that are toxic to your pet!

For a complete list of toxic foods and other items, visit If you have any questions, speak to your veterinarian.

If you think your pet ate something dangerous, immediately call ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435 or the National Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 to see whether a toxic dose has been ingested. Many times, there will be a recommendation to seek help from your veterinarian. If you are in need of emergency care, Cornell University Veterinary Specialists is open 24/7/365 and is located at 880 Canal Street in Stamford.  203-595-2777.

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