Xylitol is a sugar substitute found commonly in most sugar free gums, candies, baked goods, vitamins and most other foods. While not harmful to humans, it is extremely toxic to dogs. We learned this over the weekend when the dog of a friend of ours gulped down a bunch of cookies which were on the counter. The cookies were made with the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. The owner was not only surprised the dog ate the cookies but had no idea of the effect of this chemical.
The dog is barely hanging on and the outcome is very much in doubt. Xylitol strongly promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas into circulation leading to a rapid decrease of blood glucose levels. This then descends rapidly into liver toxicity, liver damage, and ultimately liver failure.
Even a little Xylitol can be dangerous. One piece of sugar free gum or a piece of cookie is all it can take to bring disaster. The signs develop within 30-60 minutes and include lethargy and weakness. Worse is liver failure. The advice given if this is suspected is to immediately induce vomiting and get the dog to medical help. The best way to induce vomiting is dogs (I learned this a few years ago) is to make them swallow hydrogen peroxide.
With the popularity of sugar free foods, people who own dogs need to be on guard and keep even gum in places the dog can't get to. I'm not a fan of artificial sweeteners in anything, but this story panics me a bit since dogs are attracted to sweet stuff and humans are often want to spit out their gum or drop cookies or candy on the ground where a walking dog would go right to it.
If you have a dog, please be aware.