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Dog owners know the dangers that foods like chocolate, garlic, onion, and grapes, pose to their canine companions’ health; foods that are harmless to most people.

Another common substance that’s harmless to most humans but potentially life-threatening if consumed by dogs is xylitol—a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in many human foods.

It is making thousands of dog sick and even causing death, and is affecting more pets now than ever before. It’s probably in your home right now.

If your dog were to stick his nose in your handbag and accidentally consume a pack of sugarless chewing gum, the consequences could be deadly.

Sugarless gum may contain xylitol, a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol. Xylitol is present in many products and foods for human use, but can have devastating effects on your pet.

While most dog owners have heard about xylitol and are aware of the dangers of this substance; what you may not know is that it’s not only present in food products such as sugar-free gum, and candy.

In-fact, you’ll see it turn up in all sorts of surprising places- deodorant, peanut butter, cereals, ice-cream, nasal sprays, antacids, make-up removers, sleep aid pills, shaving cream, human toothpaste, baked goods, and even some household products such as baby wipes and lip balm.

If you think your dog may have eaten a product containing xylitol, call your vet, emergency clinic, or animal poison control center right away.

Why is Xylitol so dangerous?

In dogs, it increases the release of insulin and causes a decrease in the blood sugar levels. Xylitol will cause the same effect in cat’s, but they’re more likely to be spared because of their finicky palates. They have a disdain for sweets and have discriminating appetites. Ferret owners, however, should be careful, as ferrets have been known to develop low blood sugar and similar symptoms, like dogs, after eating products containing xylitol.

Symptoms to looks for in your Dog

If you suspect your dog ate something with xylitol in it, first, stay calm! Next, read the ingredients to see if the product contained xylitol. The general rule is that if xylitol is listed in the first 3-5 ingredients (typically in order of the amount that they appear in the food or product), it is going to be poisonous!

Time is critical in your dogs prognosis! No matter how little was ingested by your dog, contact your veterinarian (or an emergency veterinarian if off-hours) immediately.

The first symptom of xylitol toxicity is likely to be vomiting. trembling, weakness or lethargy, collapse, seizures, racing heart rate, jaundiced gums, bruising, clotting problems, walking drunk, diarrhea, and potentially death.

What is a toxic dose of Xylitol for your dog?

The dose needed to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight. This means that a 10 lb dog could eat one piece of gum and it could be extremely toxic!

Please be careful. Keep gum, candies, mints, and purses out of reach: Even if you don’t typically have these items in your home, be sure that guests visiting keep their purses out of the dog’s reach in case they are carrying xylitol-containing medications or products, such as gum, mints, or candies. Also, be aware of household products that contain xylitol. and find alternatives to them, or store them where your dog cannot reach them.

Lastly, always, be prepared! Have your local veterinarians numbers ready or even the pet poison helpline in areas which are accessible to all your household members. This is a great idea for all pet-related emergencies. That way, if your dog or ferret consumes xylitol or any other toxic substance, you’ll save precious minutes getting them treated immediately.