Xylitol and a major pet emergency

When Tarin Goodnight, a student at Texas State University, ran to the store, she didn’t expect to come back home to a pet emergency. But during the short time she was away, her then 18-month-old Chihuahua, Carmen, had jumped onto her desk and eaten four pieces of nicotine gum, leaving the paper wrappers as the only evidence of her misdeed.

The daughter of a veterinarian, Goodnight reacted quickly. “I remember my dad telling me that if you give a dog some hydrogen peroxide they will throw up,” she says. Goodnight gave her puppy two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. Carmen vomited in the car en route to the emergency pet clinic. “There were little chunks of gum in the vomit,” says Goodnight. “I was relieved.”

But turns out, nicotine poisoning was just the beginning of Carmen’s agony: She also had ingested xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many products, including nicotine gum, sugar-free gum, mints and chewable vitamins, to name a few. While xylitol consumption is considered safe for people, dogs that ingest xylitol can develop life-threatening symptoms rather quickly, including liver failure, bleeding and clotting disorders and sudden hypoglycemia.

Rushed from the emergency hospital in New Braunfels, Texas, to a hospital in San Antonio, Carmen spent four days in critical condition. Doctors monitored her glucose levels and hooked her up to IV fluids to flush her system. For Goodnight, it was a huge relief when Carmen was allowed to go home four days later. But veterinarians warned that her dog would remain at risk of sudden liver failure for several weeks.

“I have never worried so much,” says Goodnight. “I think we were just lucky that I found her so quickly and knew what to do. She definitely consumed a lethal dose, and the vomiting might have helped get some of it out of her system quickly.”

Indeed, if Goodnight had come home later or if Carmen had swallowed the wrappers, Goodnight might not have known what happened until the first signs of nicotine poisoning, which is generally hyperactivity — a difficult symptom to detect in a young Chihuahua.

But here’s another big “if”: If Goodnight had not had pet health insurance, would she have been able to pay the emergency vet bill? With a dad as a vet, my guess is yes. But her dad, David Goodnight, DVM, and president and CFO of PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance headquartered in San Antonio, helped her even more. When she got Carmen, he got her an accident and illness pet health insurance policy for the dog.

“As a vet in private practice for 19 years, I have seen many pet emergencies,” he said. “I can take care of Carmen’s preventive care, but I am not the doctor Tarin would need in an emergency. I wanted her to have the resources to care for her dog and for money not to be an issue.”

Goodnight loved the gift. She only had to pay $500 of the $1,500 vet bill.

Pet health insurance has become worthwhile protection for both dog and cat owners who want help with preventive care or to safeguard their pets from economic euthanasia. In talking about PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance, Dr. Goodnight notes that premiums are less expensive for cats. Of course, they are. What cat in its right mind would even consider chewing gum?

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