Sugar-Free Gum and Snacks Can be Deadly for Pets

More on PawNation: dogs, fatal, gum, sugarless, xylitol
dog playing with soap bubble picture

Soap bubbles: Good. Bubblegum: Bad! Photo: Tim PopUp/Flickr

Most pet owners know that chocolate is a big no-no for dogs. But here's something to chew on: a common ingredient in sugarless gum and snacks can cause a canine catastrophe.

The culprit is a sweetener called xylitol. While you may never have heard of it, there's a good chance you have it in your house. Xylitol is common in sugarless gum and in sugar-free snacks, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs have increased in recent years as the sweetener has been added to lots of new foods, Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, vice president of the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, told Paw Nation. "There definitely has been an increase in the exposures of dogs to xylitol over the last several years, simply because there's more xylitol out there."

The chemical is completely safe for humans and most other animals, but in dogs, xylitol causes blood sugar levels to plummet. When blood sugar drops, Gwaltney-Brant says, "the brain isn't getting enough energy to do its job." After swallowing xylitol, dogs may vomit and become lethargic and disoriented. "If blood sugar drops low enough, they can have seizures," Gwaltney-Brant says. Without treatment, dogs can die.

That's not all. Dogs that eat a lot of xylitol can also suffer from liver damage. Researchers aren't sure what causes the liver problems, Gwaltney-Brant says, but the results can be grave.

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