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So, your dog ate candy? The first thing to do is to figure out what type and quantity of candy your dog ate.

The biggest concern with candy (that isn’t chocolate) is the risk of the ingredient xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used as an artificial sweetener and is toxic to pets. This ingredient is often used in sugar-free items but has been showing up in more and more foods every day even when they aren’t labeled as sugar-free. Most often, xylitol is found in sugar-free gum, sugar-free candy, and sugar-free baked goods. Call your vet or emergency vet immediately if you believe your dog consumed xylitol.

Dogs are increasingly at risk for potential exposure to these products because more and more of them contain xylitol. It damages the dog’s liver, and clinical signs of “intoxication” (poisoning) can develop in as little as 30 minutes to an hour. Ingestion causes a massive insulin release. The blood-sugar drop (hypoglycemia) that results can cause weakness, stumbling, collapse, and even seizures. After this stage, signs of liver disease develop.

If detected early enough—within two hours—affected dogs can be made to vomit. If full-blown symptoms of hypoglycemia appear, your dog must be treated by a veterinarian until the animal’s blood glucose is back to normal.

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For many small breeds, xylitol poisoning can be fatal without early veterinary intervention. There is no know antidote for xylitol intoxication and the only therapy is supportive. Treatment goals are the correction of hypoglycemia and prevention of developing acute liver failure.

Dogs certainly have a sweet tooth and some will gluttonously and ravenously go for any sweets they can ferret out. We need to dog-proof the house and ensure that dogs cannot get into potentially harmful things like xylitol-containing gum and candy.

Hard candy can also cause harm to dogs. Large quantities of hard candies and gum can clump up in the stomach and cause a risk of stomach obstruction.

In addition to the risk of candy itself, the wrappers can also be an issue. Wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s throat or intestinal tract, requiring surgery to remove them. Foil or cellophane wrappers have the potential to result in gastrointestinal irritation.

This article originally appeared in the award-winning AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

Related article: What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate
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