Saturday, January 12, 2008

True Toxicology Tales

Thought you might like to know, the things I write about in my toxicology posts really do happen. Yesterday, I had a panicked phone call from an owner whose dog had just eaten a whole pack of gum. Yes, it was Orbit sugar-free gum containing xylitol as the artificial sweetener.

Loyal readers of this blog will remember the Toxicology Tuesday report on xylitol, a sugar alcohol rapidly increasing in popularity as a low-cal alternative to sugar in gums, mints, and available in bulk for home baking. Luckily, my client was aware of the dangers, and called me the minute she discovered what her dog had done.

Taffy is a 20 lb mixed breed dog who apparently has craving for minty-fresh breath. The owner had come home, dropped her purse on the floor, and gone upstairs for "just a minute." When she came back down, she found Taffy had stuck her nose into the bottom of her purse to find the gum hidden inside. There was not a trace of debris on the floor, and only one stick left in the pack. The owner knew that two pieces had previously been removed, so simple math meant that our culprit had ingested 11 sticks of the 14 stick pack. (Two to four sticks would be toxic in a dog Taffy's size.) She had her dog in our hospital within 45 minutes of finding the evidence.

Our first step was to induce vomiting, something I generally do with oral hydrogen peroxide. It usually works pretty quickly, but it took three doses before Taffy would give me the gum back. I counted 10 wrappers, so I felt certain we had gotten most of the gum out of her stomach. We checked her blood sugar, drew baseline lab work for her liver enzymes, and started her on IV fluids with dextrose, to keep her blood sugar up.

This morning, Taffy was doing well, her blood sugar holding at 100 (normal). Because I closed at noon, she went on to a 24 hour facility for continued care this weekend, but things are looking good so far. Aside from severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) Taffy's other risk is for hepatic necrosis, or death of her liver tissue, which can take up to 72 hours to see, so she's not out of the woods yet.

If you have to have a poisoning case, this is the kind you want to have: An alert owner, who recognized that her dog ate something potentially bad and brought her in right away, the recovery of the majority of the toxin, and a dog who is (so far) responding to supportive care.

So please, dog lovers out there, cross your fingers, say a prayer, or wish on a lucky star that Taffy does well. She is a sweet dog, in the process of being adopted from a dog rescue group by a lovely lady, with a cute little boy and another dog-sister who is already in love with her new friend. And, do me a favor - put the xylitol gum in an upper cabinet right now.


KGMom said...

A good (and hopefully happy outcome) cautionary tale.
Some dogs (make that most dogs) will eat anything.

Birdfreak said...

Taffy is lucky to have such good care and smart owner. Our dogs eat anything and everything and we have to put stuff way up! Good words of wisdom.

Sara said...

Positive thoughts go out to Taffy and her people. We will pay even closer attention to Toxicology Tuesday from here onward. Thanks for helping us to be better pet owners.
Thanks also for your thoughts about canine sight and computer screens on JZ's Blog.

Kathy said...

Praying that Taffy will come through the ordeal just fine. I'm glad for your excellent care and her owner's quick response to the situation. My gum is in a top drawer where the dogs can't snoop. I just had a thought: is gum still toxic after it has been chewed awhile? If dogs got it out of the trash after it is chewed, would it still be toxic?

Mary said...

Taffy is lucky to have smart owners and a good vet! I hope she is OK...