Chewing gum ingredient can be fatal for dogs

Chewing gum ingredient can be fatal for dogs »Play Video
PORTLAND, Ore. - Most of us know that feeding chocolate to Fido is a no-no and that we need to keep dogs away from chicken bones, but did you know that gum can sicken or even kill your pooch?

Some vets don't know even know about it, and neither did a Seattle woman until her dog slipped into a coma.

It was Easter Sunday and the Crandall family was at the beach with Shenley, a 60-pound chocolate lab. The dog was happily chasing a tennis ball and crashing into the waves over and over again.

But things changed quickly.

"It happened so fast, we had just seen her," said Caitlin Crandall. "We couldn't find her - it was horrible."

Caitlin knew something was wrong when Shenley didn't show up at the dinner table begging for scraps. Caitlin's father found the dog unconscious in the front yard.

"Within a few more minutes she would have not made it at all," Caitlin said.

The Crandalls were told by a vet to prepare for the worst. Their beloved pet was dying, and no one knew why.

Shenley spent six days in intensive care.

The only clue to her illness was a trail of gum wrappers - dozens of them. But, how could chewing gum make a dog so sick?

The Crandall family was stumped and desperate for an answer. So Caitlin's sister got online and found a blogger who warned about chewing gum that almost killed his dog. The site said sugarless gums made with Xylitol, a popular sweetener, can be toxic to dogs.

Caitlin was stunned.

"I couldn't believe we didn't know, that nobody knows, nobody knew!" she said. "Everyone was completely shocked."

"When a dog ingests it, it causes a bunch of insulin to be released," said Seattle Veterinarian Danielle Wassink. "So it mimics real sugar so their body releases a bunch of insulin to go use up the sugar, which can cause them to get very hypoglycemic or have a very low blood sugar."

Doctors at the Animal Poison Control Center in Chicago are doing research on Xylitol and dogs. And Dr. Erik Dunayer published his findings in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association warning other vets.

Dunayer said 95 percent of vets get the journal but, "obviously they're not reading it."

He said Xylitol can lead to liver failure in dogs and, if untreated, it can be fatal.

Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is in everything from baked goods to chewing gum, but only recently has it become popular in the U.S., which is why most dog owners and vets have never heard of it.

"I'm just really worried about other dogs, " Caitlin said. "People just need to know."

If a dog gets into sugarless gum, the Animal Poison Control Center says don't wait get to an emergency vet and be prepared to tell them it's Xylitol-related.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in the last few years, eight dogs were euthanized or died because of liver failure resulting from Xylitol ingestion. Hundreds more were treated and the number of cases of has doubled every year since 2004.

Xylitol is not just found in gum, but is also in some toothpastes, sugar-free pudding, baked goods and energy bars.