Xylitol causes concerns for dog owners

  • 04/11/2015
Xylitol causes concerns for dog owners

Concerns have been raised about a popular artificial sweetener, which could be fatal for canines.

Xylitol is widely available in New Zealand and it's being linked to the death of a dog in the US.

Samantha Caress and Jordan Pellett recently adopted Gunner. He's helped fill the hole in their hearts created when two-year-old Luna died in April after getting into some chewing gum made with sugar substitute xylitol.

She started vomiting and they rushed her to the vet, but it was too late.

"They gave us a phone call saying her kidney tests weren't good, and that they were shutting down and that we didn't really have any other choice but to put her down," says Ms Caress.

Xylitol is safe for humans but can cause severe low blood sugar, even liver failure, in dogs.

Sugar-free gum is the biggest culprit, but xylitol is also used in some sugar-free lollies, chewable vitamins, peanut butter and even some baked goods.

The number of products is on the rise and so are the calls to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center in the US, from 82 in 2004 to more than 3700 last year.

Some animal welfare groups are calling for warning labels on products with xylitol.

Dr Ashley Gallagher with the Friendship Animal Hospital in Washington says the key is vigilance on the part of dog owners.

"You just have to be really careful because dogs are nosy little creatures and they are hungry all the time," says Dr Gallagher. "I know my dogs are and they are just looking for a treat. So you have to really watch them."

Ms Caress and Mr Pellett go one step further.

"With a lot of things like candy and gum and peanut butter, we check all of them, and if they have xylitol in them we don't buy them."

Dr Gallagher says dog owners should check the labels of all products that say "sugar-free". Anything that contains xylitol should be put up in the top cabinets, out of reach of dogs.

CBS News