Popular ingredient leading to increased dog illnesses and deaths

Published: Feb. 7, 2017 at 9:19 PM CST
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Popular diet foods could be deadly for your dog. Xylitol, commonly used in low sugar foods isn't a new ingredient, but the sugar substitute is making its way into more foods that could be in your home.

From sugar free gum to some peanut butters, xylitol is in many foods you'd never expect. Some dog owners, like Lauri and Dan Stotts, don't know how dangerous the substance is until it's too late.

"I knew xylitol was not good for dogs, but I didn't know what it would do exactly," said Lauri.

Just a few months ago, their black lab mix, Ellie got into a packet of sugar free gum sweetened with xylitol. She fished it out of Lauri's purse and ate all but one piece.

"A couple hours later when I found her she was having seizures and we didn't know if she was going to make it," said Lauri.

Ellie ended up at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital of Wichita where she stayed for nearly three days. Lauri says the family was already going through a tough time.

"I didn't know what I was going to do if we lost her. Because when I lost my dad I just wanted to come home and hug my dogs. Then I thought I was going to lose her six days later," said Lauri.

Ellie survived her case of xylitol consumption, but not all dogs are as lucky. Dr. Dan Thompson of Chisholm Trail Animal Hospital has taken care of animals for more than four decades. He says cases like Ellie's have spiked over the past five years as low sugar diets surge in popularity.

"Xylitol has been around a long time as a sweetener, but its use has expanded into a lot more products," said Dr. Dan.

Sugar free gum, candy and mints are just a few products swapping out sugar for xylitol. Dr. Dan says xylitol causes a rapid insulin surge in dogs, leading to a corresponding drop in blood sugar. Depending on the size of the dog, the effects of xylitol can appear in a matter of minutes.

"They start to get really droopy, sometimes start salivating, get sick to their stomach. They go into a situation where they pass out," said Dr. Dan.

Without immediate care the dog's liver can shut down. Dr. Dan says that can't be treated, and the dog will pass away.

Spotting these potentially deadly foods isn't always easy, even for educated dog owners. We headed to the dog park to put people to the test, comparing Jell-o pudding mix and Jell-o pudding cups. The products are similar, but only the cups contain xylitol. Three out of four people we asked incorrectly guessed the mix.

If you're wondering what products in your home contain xylitol, there's only one way to know for sure.

"Look at your labels, read your labels," said Lauri. "It will kill them, not just hurt them."

Xylitol is commonly used in food products, but it's also found in items you might not expect. Click

to find a full list of all known products that contain xylitol.