• 59°

K9 Corner, Jan. 10

By HELEN PALMER

Contributing writer

This is a two-part column mainly because a reader asked me to write about the dangers of single digit temperatures for dogs and cats (and all other warm-blooded creatures including humans), and I had already planned to warn dog owners on the dangers of Xylitol, an artificial sweetener.

So we have already had some low temperatures this year, frankly I hope we have seen the last of them and the next two months will be mild, but that is wishful thinking.

If your dog is an outdoor dog, be sure it has a warm draft-free shelter with dry bedding such as a thick layer of dry straw that the animal can snuggle into. When I built my dog shelters, (my dogs were going to be outside during the day while I worked), I made sure that they were insulated on all six sides with the doorway cut to the left of center.  I then covered the doorway with three layers of heavy duty plastic cut in vertical strips so the dog could push in and out, but the dog’s body heat would be trapped inside. The lower the temperature the more straw I would add. One cold spell in the 1970s I filled both houses completely with straw and the dogs dug out a nest to snuggle in.

As the snow falls, it is necessary to check the bedding each night to make sure it is still dry since the dog tracks snow into the shelter. The snow melts as the dog’s body heat fills the dog house and the bedding becomes wet. Wet bedding must be removed and replaced with dry bedding.

Water is also essential for outdoor dogs. Snow is no substitute for clean water; in fact snow may have contaminants. In freezing weather, change the water two or three times a day or bring the dog inside to rest.

Now for warning dog owners about Xylitol sweetener; Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, wrote on her web site “Spot Speaks” about this sweetener and how dangerous it is for dogs. Xylitol was discovered in 1891 and has been designated as species specific according to Kay. People, rats, horses and rhesus monkeys do not react to Xylitol, but dogs, cows, goats, rabbits and baboons do react by having a dramatic surge of insulin that lowers blood sugar sufficiently to cause weakness, trembling, seizures, collapse and even death.

Vomiting is the first symptoms of Xylitol toxicity. The toxic dosage for dogs is 0.1 gram for each kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. Emergency treatment is necessary, from making the dog vomit (if you have seen your pet eating the product) to racing to the veterinarian for special treatments to “counteract the effects of low blood sugar and liver damage.”

Xylitol is found in lots of products for humans: chewing gum, candy, some peanut butter brands (read the label), cereals and toothpaste. Dr. Kay says to read the labels but beware if the label just lists “artificial sweetener.”  Then you must assume it is Xylitol.