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DENVER — Ellen Wilkerson of Centennial says her family had a close call with their dog Murphy recently. She came home to find Murphy had eaten an entire pack of Orbit gum.

“She was like, doing laps around the backyard, which is not normal for her,” Wilkerson said.

After a quick Internet search and a closer look at the gum’s ingredients Wilkerson realized that the gum contained Xylitol, so the family immediately went to the vet.

“It’s a sweetener, so it’s delicious and dogs want to eat it,” said Alexis Freifeld, an Associate Veterinarian at University Hills Animal Hospital.

The problem is xylitol is the last thing a dog should eat.

“The things that we see are low blood sugar and then with really high doses we can actually see really detrimental effects on the liver,” Freifeld said. “Which can be really scary.”

As popularity of xylitol has grown as a natural sweetener, Freifeld says they’ve seen more and more dogs coming in due to accidental consumption.

Xylitol isn’t only found in gum, you’ll find it in a lot of the products we use. Toothpaste, dental floss, even some vitamins contain it.

You can also buy 100 percent xylitol, which is used for baking. That’s what a Fort Collins woman did when backing an apple pie on Easter. Tragically, her chihuahua named Pip got into it and later died.

Murphy was lucky her family caught it quickly.

“The faster we know it’s happening, we can actually induce vomiting and get it up and out of their system and so then we’re not going to see as much effects,” Freifeld said.

It was a quick decision the Wilkersons are happy they made.

“(Murphy) could have potentially died, which is really scary,” Wilkerson said.​

A Wisconsin family was not so lucky. Their dog died earlier this week from poisoning that happened because their pet ate some sugar-free gum.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis reported that the 2-year-old golden retriever got into a package of “Ice Breakers” lemon-flavored gum Monday. Samantha Caress of Glenwood City, Wisconsin said they had to put their dog Luna down on Tuesday night.

The dog suffered severe liver damage apparently from the xylitol in the gum.

It’s safe for humans.

But, “Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs,” according to the VCA Animal Hospital website. “Even small amounts of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure or even death in dogs.

Dogs develop symptoms of xylitol toxicity rapidly, usually within 15-30 minutes of consumption. Signs of hypoglycemia may include any or all of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination or difficulty walking or standing (walking like drunk)
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma