Saskatchewan

'All from a pack of gum': Pet owner, vet warn about sugar substitute that's toxic to dogs

A Regina woman and a veterinarian are warning pet owners to keep anything that might contain a sugar substitute away from dogs after a recent scare involving a seemingly harmless pack of gum.

Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free foods like gum and peanut butter

One-year-old Django was kept in a vet's care for two days after accidentally ingesting the sugar substitute xylitol. (Keiza Pynn/CBC)

A Regina woman and a veterinarian are warning pet owners to keep anything that might contain a common sugar substitute away from dogs after a recent scare involving a seemingly harmless pack of gum.

Keiza Pynn, a CBC employee, was startled on Valentine's Day when her puppy accidentally ingested 50 pieces of sugar-free gum containing xylitol. The sugar substitute is known to be toxic to dogs.

Pynn quickly researched the effects of xylitol on pets and rushed her dog, Django, to the vet's office.

She says that the vet induced vomiting and advised her to leave the year-old Brittany spaniel in their care, where he stayed there for two days.

"He could not regulate any of his own blood, glucose levels — and all from a pack of gum," Pynn said.

What xylitol does to pets

Dr. Paige Wark, a veterinarian at the 24-Hour Animal Care Centre in Regina, says that a dog's body cannot distinguish artificial sugar from real sugar.

"The normal response of the body to sugar is to release insulin and that drives your blood sugar down. The cells absorb the sugar and they use it for energy," Wark said.

"When a dog's body ingests xylitol and you get that insulin release, there is no sugar there to use as a metabolite, and so you get hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar."

Wark says ingestion of the ingredient is a common problem, with people bringing pets into her office monthly with xylitol poisoning.

Pynn says that Django is back to normal, but she wants to raise awareness about the dangers of the ingredient.

"There's xylitol in peanut butter, in gum — people put it in baked goods," Pynn said.

Wark says that if a dog ingests xylitol, they should visit the veterinarian immediately to start the decontamination process. 

She also warns that dark chocolate, Easter lilies and topical creams are also toxic to both cats and dogs.

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