ESTES PARK, Colo. – If you have a dog, this is a reminder to check the labels on your food.
Next week is National Poison Prevention Week. Pet experts are using the awareness campaign to remind people with pets that some of the ingredients in common pantry items could be poisonous to your dog.
According to Pet Poison Helpline, their top three calls from worried pet parents are for accidental ingestion of chocolate, rat poison and medications. The fourth item on the list is xylitol.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is safe for humans but can be deadly to dogs. It is most commonly found in sugar-free gum and mints but is also an ingredient in many other products listed as “sugar-free,” including toothpaste, mouthwash, baked goods, teas, shakes and even peanut butter.
Just one stick of sugar-free gum made with xylitol can cause a 20-pound dog to become ill.
“Ingested in even the smallest amounts, xylitol can be extremely dangerous to dogs, leading to liver failure or worse, and the veterinary care required is also costly for owners,” said Jenna Mahan, the director of claims at Embrace Pet Insurance.
According to Embrace, cases of xylitol poisonings are on the rise due to the popularity of the keto diet.
“We really didn’t know about xylitol,” dog lover Marcia Gerritz said.
Gerritz and her husband live in Estes Park with their two-and-a-half-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Orca. Last year, Orca had a serious health scare when she accidentally got into a package of sugar-free gum.
“She was just so different. She just was listless,” Gerritz said. “Then, she started throwing up and there was little white things in it.”
They rushed Orca to the vet where she was found to be in liver failure.
“Every hour, they said her liver function was dropping and she may not make it through,” Gerritz said.
The small dog miraculously regained her health and after five days in the hospital, she was sent home. However, miracles don’t come cheap.
“I think it was around $5,000,” Gerritz said.
According to Embrace, the average vet bill for xylitol poisoning is more than $1,000. In terms of cost of veterinary care for poisonings, Embrace says xylitol is only second to NSAIDs, which runs $1,100 to treat, on average.
Other foods that can make dogs very sick include chocolate, onions, garlic, alcohol, coffee, tomatoes, cherries, avocado, citrus, nuts, yeast dough, raisins and grapes.