Sweetener Used In Gum Blamed For Increase In Accidental Dog Poisonings

Keep your pooch away from your gum stash: experts are pointing the finger at xylitol, an ingredient used in sugarless gum, as the culprit behind a recent uptick in accidental dog poisonings.

While the sugar substitute is completely safe for humans to ingest, experts say xylitol is extremely harmful to dogs — about 100 times as toxic as milk chocolate, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Xylitol causes a sudden release of insulin in dogs, which causes low blood sugar and could lead to seizures, brain damage and liver failure.

Animal poison-control centers have been handling a lot more xylitol cases these days, some that end in death for beloved pets.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase” in xylitol calls, Dr. Ahna Brutlag, senior veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline told the WSJ. In 2009 her center fielded just 300 calls about xylitol ingestion (whether confirmed or suspected). This year, they’ve had 2,800 sweetener-related calls.

Pet owners simply aren’t aware of the dangers of xylitol, she says, or that something humans chew on every day could be toxic to pets, she adds. There’s no comprehensive data on the number of xylitol-related pet deaths, however, nor any solid evidence that it’s toxic for cats and other species.

To call attention to the issue, some pet owners are urging for warning labels on products that contain xylitol, but others find that approach unrealistic. Instead, they suggest educating dog owners so they can take matters into their own hands and keep gum — and some mints, gummy vitamins, toothpaste, various specialty peanut butters and other products — away from their pets. If you’re batch-baking with xylitol, don’t let Rover near it, either.

The good news is, if you can get your dog to the vet quickly after they’ve ingested the sweetener, they “tend to do quite well,” Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the Animal Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the WSJ.

Sweetener in Gum Is Causing Surge in Accidental Dog Poisonings [Wall Street Journal]