A local woman’s dog almost died from eating sugarless gum, and she and a local veterinarian want to warn others about the risk.
Kimberly King of Centerville is hoping to spread the word about xylitol, an ingredient in many sugar-free gum brands, that is toxic to dogs.
“The gum maker does not post a warning on the gum, so people don’t know the danger,” King said.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, when her three-year-old corgi, Cooper, quietly chewed his way into a pack of Orbit gum that had fallen out of her son’s pocket.
“I was devastated because he had eaten all the gum but one piece and I knew it was poison to dogs. I swooped him up and drove to the emergency room as fast as I could,” King said.
King said she waited anxiously for the vet’s diagnosis.
“I thought he would die. I can’t tell you the relief when they said he was going to make it,” said King.
Xylitol is found naturally in berries, lettuce, and other foods, and is used as a sugar substitute in many candies, baked goods, and even toothpaste.
Although it is safe for humans, xylitol is toxic to dogs and can cause seizures, low blood sugar, and liver failure, according to Care Center emergency veterinarian Jennifer Miller.
“We see it a lot. Between our location here in Dayton and our location in Cincinnati, we probably see about 12 to 15 cases a month, and many people are surprised that it is a toxic ingredient for dogs,” Miller said.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, stumbling, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, seizures, and bruising.
“In most cases, with supportive treatment, they do fine. For higher doses it can damage the liver, and in really severe cases, will cause liver failure. Sometimes it can take 12 hours or up to two or three days to actually see those signs develop,” said Miller.
One of the challenges of diagnosis and treatment is that information about how much xylitol a product contains is not readily available.
“It’s not something that’s published because it’s a proprietary thing. Each company keeps that information. We will have to call the animal poison control center where they can access that information. One flavor may not be as toxic, a different flavor could be. It definitely would be helpful if there was some sort of warning on the labelling,” Miller said.
When asked whether they plan to include a warning on the label regarding xylitol, or whether they have considered dog-resistant packaging, Wrigley, the maker of Orbit, issued this statement:
“The quality and safety of our products are our first priorities. All Wrigley products, including chewing gum, are made strictly for human consumption.
Some of our chewing gums contain xylitol – a safe and beneficial additive for human consumption that has been used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, confections and products like toothpaste for over 30 years. All ingredients in our U.S. products are FDA approved, including xylitol, and we strictly adhere to all FDA labeling standards and warning requirements.”
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