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The Artificial Sweetener that's Poisonous for Dogs

When Buster the dog wolfed down a bowl of pasta earlier that day, not even he could have predicted what could have happened.

Within 15 minutes of scoffing down the dish, Buster’s owners immediately rushed him to the surgery- concerned for his life.

Little had Buster known he had actually consumed xylitol, a commonly used artificial sweetener that’s poisonous for dogs.

Our amazing team at Roundwood leapt into action to save Buster's life.

Read on to learn about the deadly effects of xylitol and how the team helped Buster.

Xylitol - The Artificial Sweetener That’s Poisonous For Dogs

Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener that is commonly found in a multitude of foods, including mints and (unfortunately for Buster and his parents) pasta sauce.

Consuming even the smallest amount of the substance can make a dog severely ill, causing their blood sugar levels to plummet drastically.

Without urgent intervention, this can cause seizures in dogs, liver failure and even death.

Xylitol poisoning most commonly occurs in dogs as a result of eating sugar-free chewing gum. This is why it is especially important to keep an eye out when walking your dog, in case it consumes some gum off the ground.

Unbeknownst to Buster, he had just consumed a deadly amount of this substance and was seriously in danger.

Once at the clinic, the team administered an injection to make Buster sick, to get as much of the xylitol out of his body as possible.

Whilst Buster was vomiting, Dr Jo phoned the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) for advice.

The VPIS is an amazing service available for vets and pet owners alike, that gives advice and treatment plans for all types of poisons (including grapes, chocolate, lilies and rat poison).

They were able to tell Dr Jo exactly what treatment Buster needed for the amount he had ingested, giving him the best chance of survival.

Buster was placed on an intravenous drip to give him the essential fluids he required. He needed intensive nursing which included hourly blood tests to measure his glucose levels, electrolytes and live enzymes.

His progress was closely monitored throughout the night in case he began to seizure (as there was still a chance some of the sweetener had entered his bloodstream).

Buster had to spend two days in the hospital before it was safe for him to go home, to be monitored by his family.

Thanks to both the quick thinking of his owners and our vets, Buster is now a healthy and happy pup - thoroughly put-off Italian food for the rest of his life!

The Cost of Not Insuring Your Pet

If you suspect your pet has consumed a poisonous substance, it's best to contact the Veterinary Poisons Information Service or your own vet.

Animal Poison Line is run by the VPIS and is the only 24-hour specialised emergency telephone service in the UK dedicated to helping pet owners who are worried their pet may have been exposed to something harmful or poisonous.

Based on the information the owner provides, they will be able to tell the owner if they need to attend the vet. It is a triage service.

The lines are open 24 hours a day. Calls cost £35 between Monday- Friday from 8 am to 8 pm.

Calls cost £45 at all other times including bank holidays.

The VPIS won’t advise you on a specific treatment but they will advise you if you need to seek veterinary attention, should your pet need a vet visit they can speak to your vet for an additional charge with a comprehensive treatment plan.

Why Pet Insurance is Critical!

Although Buster made a full recovery, the cost of this incident was significant.

Unfortunately for Buster's owners, his pasta treat had cost them a whopping £3,000, which could have been claimed back if he had been insured.

It is easy to feel you are saving money by not paying a monthly premium, but accidents such as Busters are not uncommon. Even if you don’t think your pet needs insurance, if you are unable to pay large unexpected vet bills like Busters then you really do need to consider insurance to give you options in an emergency.

When looking for insurance the cheapest policy isn’t always the best, so we've written up a little guide for you below.

Types of Insurance Policies You Can Take Out

Lifetime Policies

This type of policy offers ongoing cover for illnesses and injuries. Your pet is covered by a set amount each policy year for illnesses and injuries. This continues for as long as you have the insurance policy with the same insurance company. Each time you renew your policy the full level of cover is reinstated.

Maximum Benefit Policies

These policies provide a fixed amount of money for each illness or injury. Your pet is covered for each illness and injury until the maximum amount has been spent. You must renew your policy each year for the cover to remain in place. Normally there is no time limit on reaching the amount, however, once the amount is reached, the cost of treatment for the condition will not be covered again.

Time-Limited Policies

These policies provide a set time period for which treatment of each illness or injury will be covered. Policies will typically cover the cost of treating your pet for a particular illness or injury for 12 months from the start of that illness or injury.

The time-limit does not relate to the duration of the policy, but to the maximum amount of time an illness or injury is covered for. You will need to renew your policy for the cover to remain in place if your claim started 6 months into the policy.

When the set period has ended, or the fixed sum of money for a particular illness or injury has been reached - whichever comes first - your pet will not be covered for that particular illness or injury again.

Accident Only Policies

These policies provide a fixed sum for each accidental injury to help pay for your pet's treatment.

Some accident policies will have a 12-month time limit. If the cover is limited to a 12 month treatment period like the time-limited policy, you must renew your policy at the end of the policy period to ensure your pet remains covered for future accidents that may require treatment. This type of policy would not cover your pet for illness.

All insurance policies may become invalid if you do not pay your monthly premium.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing an Insurance Policy

  • We would recommend a cover of at least £4,000.00 a year.

  • Any pre-existing conditions will not be covered by insurance and most have a time period that is 'accident only' before your full cover starts, this is to prevent insurance fraud.

  • Should you change your insurance to another company, any condition you are claiming for may not be covered by your new insurer.

  • We strongly recommend you read the small print and exemptions.

  • You can only claim your insurance once you have reached your excess.

  • Vaccines and preventive treatment such as parasite care are not normally covered by insurance but maybe a requirement for your insurance to be valid.

  • Dental treatment is not covered by all insurance providers.

  • Some insurance companies will offer direct payment to your vet but this is at the discretion of the veterinary practice. We can only accept a direct payment if we have received a written pre-authorisation from your insurance company which is based on an estimate we have provided to them - not all insurance companies offer this service.

To read more about the Roundwood team's work, check out last weeks blog post on how the team saved Bagel the dapple dachshund here.

Have a new puppy? Read our post on how you socialise your pandemic pup here.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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