A week ago today our beautiful Hungarian Vizsla Ruby died. She was just seven. Losing a beloved family dog is utterly terrible, but our grief is compounded by the fact we might have been able to save her, had we known about xylitol.
Ruby died after eating xylitol, a great (for humans) sugar replacement that’s being used increasingly in foods. But it is lethal for dogs. One small piece of chewing gum sweetened with xylitol (most are – have a look) is enough to kill an 8-10kg dog. One piece. And most dog owners have no idea. Xylitol is found in yogurts, peanut butter, takeaways, cakes… any food that manufacturers want to improve by replacing sugar with a healthier alternative. Ruby stole two of my homemade brownies. Nothing new – she’s stolen them before from sealed boxes, with no adverse effects – but this time I’d cooked with xylitol. I had no idea that she should be rushed immediately to the vet to begin intensive, invasive treatment which might – just might – have saved her.
Instead it took until she vomited terribly and collapsed 36 hours later for us to go to the vet. It was only when she was transferred to the amazing Royal Veterinary College Hospital that they mentioned, “had I heard of xylitol?”.
After eight days of battling, critically ill in intensive care, she died. We are heartbroken. What good can come of losing a pet who was the centre of our family, loved beyond imagination? We are beside ourselves with sadness and guilt.
Only other dog lovers will understand the level of grief. And I would hate you to go through what we are at the moment. So, please, learn about xylitol. Look for it. Check what you dog’s picked up on the pavement. Was it a piece of discarded chewing gum? Do you put peanut butter in a kong for a treat for your dog? What are the ingredients? Have they ever had a lick of the leftovers from a delicious takeaway? Some better quality restaurants now use xylitol in their cooking. How would you know when you put the container on the floor for your beloved pooch to enjoy?
If you’re not sure – call the Animal PoisonLine, at 01202 509000. And no, I didn’t know about this wonderful service either. For a flat fee of £30 they will assess what your pet has eaten and give you proper advice on what to do and how urgently it needs to be done. It may save your pet’s life. Call the PoisonLine whenever any animal eats anything you have concerns about.Spread the word. We need all dog owners to be aware of this ‘new’ toxin. We need those who drop gum to know they are leaving a trail lethal to man’s best friend. We need vets to think immediately of xylitol, as well as warfarin, when dogs present with poisoning. We need food manufacturers to clearly label foods with xylitol as “lethal to dogs”.
The PoisonLine documents hundreds of deaths from xylitol each year. They think the true figure could be in the thousands. Please don’t let your dog become one of them.
Images by Kate Chacksfield.