When I brought home my dog for the first time, I didn’t realize that they would eat almost anything. This included my toothpaste! I was terrified of what would happen, so I did some research and found out.
So, what happens when dogs eat toothpaste?
The answer has to do with xylitol. While xylitol is considered safe for people, it can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia in dogs. Hypoglycemia can develop in a matter of minutes, and if dogs eat a large quantity of toothpaste, this can lead to the death of liver cells, causing liver failure.
The good news is that there are treatment options available. If you keep reading, you’ll learn the symptoms of toothpaste poisoning in dogs, how it is diagnosed, and how it is treated.
What Happens When Dogs Eat Toothpaste?
Xylitol is a common ingredient in toothpaste. It is a sugar alcohol found in sugar-free gum, chewable vitamins, and even some baked goods. If your dog consumes toothpaste, the toxic effect of xylitol can lead to severe complications that could end in death. The sooner this condition is diagnosed, the faster it can be treated.
So, if your dog eats some toothpaste, what are some of the symptoms that you might notice? They include:
- Vomiting: You should see profuse vomiting in your dog as he or she tries to rid this toxic substance from his or her body.
- Lethargy: Your dog will suffer from a severe lack of energy because xylitol lowers your dog’s blood sugar, robbing his or her body of its energy source.
- Ataxia: You may notice that your dog has trouble walking around, stemming from muscle coordination issues brought on by xylitol toxicity.
- Seizures: If your dog’s blood sugar drops too low, it could lead to seizures. Your dog’s brain requires sugar to function properly. Without adequate blood sugar levels, seizures can develop.
- Black Stool: If your dog has a bowel movement during this episode, it may resemble tar. A result of possible liver failure and or GI distress brought on by xylitol poisoning.
If xylitol poisoning in dogs is not treated quickly, this could lead to a coma and possibly death. Depending on how much toothpaste your dog ingested, these symptoms might not show up immediately. The onset could be delayed, making it harder to link the symptoms to toothpaste poisoning. Therefore, any dog showing these symptoms should be taken vet immediately.
Diagnosing Toothpaste Poisoning in Dogs
If you are worried that your dog has ingested toothpaste, then you need to take him or her to the vet immediately. Sometimes, the symptoms described above might not appear until extensive liver damage has already appeared.
When you go to the vet, it is a good idea to bring whatever toothpaste contained you think your dog ingested. When in doubt, look for teeth marks. Your vet can take a look at the ingredient list on the toothpaste container and tailor the treatment to match the ingested ingredients. After the vet has listened to your story, he or she will likely order numerous blood and urine tests to look for signs of xylitol poisoning. Some of the most common test results that indicate xylitol poisoning include:
- Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia
- Low potassium, called hypokalemia
- Low phosphate, called hypophosphatemia
- High bilirubin levels, called hyperbilirubinemia (stemming from liver failure)
- Coagulopathies, or issues related to the blood’s ability to clot, stemming from GI hemorrhaging and liver failure
Once the vet has completed this battery of tests, he or she will start the treatment process.
Treating Toothpaste Poisoning in Dogs
There are a few treatment options that the vet might employ to help your dog. If your dog has not started vomiting yet, then the illness might still be early in its course. In this case, the vet might induce vomiting in your dog to try to get rid of the xylitol in your dog’s stomach before the toxidrome gets worse.
In the vast majority of cases, the dog will have to be hospitalized for intravenous (IV therapy). The vet is going to use IV fluids to correct issues in our dog’s electrolytes. The vet will monitor your dog’s liver enzymes, potassium, phosphorous, and blood profile regularly to make sure these electrolytes stay within normal limits. The vet will also follow your dog’s blood sugar levels carefully.
Dogs may have to spend a few days in the hospital to make sure that they recover completely. The vet might also administer antioxidants, vitamin E, and other medications to protect your dog’s liver as they recover. The vet might also provide your dog with plasma or other blood products if there are severe issues in your dog’s blood profile. You should expect the vet to keep you updated as your dog recovers from toothpaste poisoning.
The Prognosis of Toothpaste Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has toothpaste poisoning, then his or her prognosis will be dependent on the extent of the liver damage. If your dog’s electrolytes remain stable after a few days in the hospital, then the vet will probably release him or her; however, the vet will probably also want to see your dog in a few days to test your dog’s liver.
If your dog’s liver is intact after the episode, then your dog will probably make a full recovery. If there are still signs that your dog’s liver is struggling following toothpaste poisoning, then the prognosis may not be as favorable. Your vet will address the exact prognosis of your dog with you on a case by case basis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Can I Prevent Toothpaste Poisoning in Dogs?
Toothpaste poisoning in dogs can lead to life-threatening xylitol poisoning. To prevent this from happening, you need to make sure that you store your toothpaste out of your dog’s reach. Try to keep your toothpaste behind closed doors. The best place for this is either in the medicine cabinet or the cabinet under the sink. Make sure the doors are closed. Do not leave toothpaste where counter-surfing dogs can get to it.
How Do Vets Get the Toothpaste Out of Dogs?
It depends on how soon your dog sees a vet. If your dog just ate the toothpaste a few minutes ago, then the vet might induce vomiting to remove the toothpaste from your dog before he or she absorbs it. If your dog ate the toothpaste a few hours ago, then the vet may not remove the toothpaste at all. Instead, the focus is on keeping your dog stable until their body processes the toxin on its own.
Do Other Products Contain Xylitol?
In addition to toothpaste, many other products could lead to xylitol poisoning. These include sugar-free types of gum, peanut butter, mouthwash, sugar-free candy, certain fruit drinks, and specific jellies. Always read the label on your food carefully before giving any of it to your dog.
Final Thoughts on Toothpaste Poisoning in Dogs
Toothpaste poisoning in dogs can lead to severe symptoms; however, they might not appear immediately. Xylitol in toothpaste can lead to life-threatening low blood sugar levels, liver failure, and severe blood problems. The sooner this condition is treated, the better its prognosis.