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HealthWatch: Popular Sweetener May Pose Danger To Dogs

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Chewing gum with Xylitol, a popular sweetener. (CBS)

Chewing gum with Xylitol, a popular sweetener. (CBS)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSSanFrancisco.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSSanFrancisco.com/Health

SAN JOSE (CBS 5) — Veterinarians have issued a warning about a popular sweetener that may pose a danger to dogs.

Four years ago, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Billy found a new home in San Jose. The little puppy soon grew into a playful, mischievous member of the family. Billy was a very fortunate and well-cared for pet.

However, last Tuesday, Billy was rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis: acute liver failure.

The dog was bleeding internally. He was jaundiced. All the capillaries in his eyes had burst.

“When he presented to us, he had bleeding along the arm pit area and bleeding around the eyes,” said veterinary specialist Dr. Heidi McClain of Sage Veterinary Centers.

According to his owner, Billy had gotten into a grocery bag and ate several packs of Icebreakers Ice Cube gum, which contains a sweetener called Xylitol. The sweetener is used in many products, even toothpaste

In humans, Xylitol is considered safe and a good sugar substitute. The sweetener also prevents oral bacteria from producing acids that damage tooth surfaces, which makes it a good choice for oral care products.

But in dogs, Xylitol can be toxic. Despite five days of intensive care. Billy had multiple organ failure the damage so great, he could not be saved. On Monday, Billy was euthanized.

Billy’s owner is heartbroken. She asked CBS 5 HealthWatch to tell other dog owners about what happened to her.

McClain said dog owners need to know about the dangers of xylitol.

“I personally would never buy gum with Xylitol because I have dogs and if I leave a pack in my car or in my house, I would never want my dog to get into it,” said the vet.

Reports of Xylitol poisonings, while small in number, are actually on the rise.

Since 2006, calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center have tripled. The makers of Icebreakers urge pet owners to keep sugar-free products away from their pets.

Billy’s owner wishes she had known.

McClain said that “she said to the doctor when she came in and said I can’t believe this why isn’t there a warning on the label?”

While Billy ate a lot of Xylitol gum, McClain has seen toxicity with a single piece. The symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, possible collapse and seizures.

If you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol, call your vet immediately. Vets also ask pet owners to keep products with the sweetener out of their reach.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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