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This is a form of public service announcement for those of you with dogs.

Do not let your dogs eat sugar-free gum under any circumstances.

You see, one of the main artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free gums is Xylitol, a sugar alcohol with a noted cooling effect. You'll find it in Orbit, Koolerz, and IceBreakers, among others. It's also the chief sweetener in almost all European and Asian gum. And Xylitol happens to be toxic to dogs. It gives them hypoglycemia for one thing, and can also cause liver failure if not properly treated. Proper treatment consists of:

  • Making your dog vomit as soon as possible after ingesting Xylitol. You can feed a dog ipecac or hydrogen peroxide, or in a pinch take a tablespoon of salt and stuff it down the back of their throat all at once.
  • Giving your dog a charcoal tablet to absorb the Xylitol before his system does.
  • Taking them to the vet ASAP to get fluids and glucose/dextrose to address the hypoglycemia.

Other sources of Xylitol can include diet pills, toothpastes, and almost any other "sugar-free" edible. Check your packaging for more info.

And (as if you have to ask) the reason I know this is because our dog recently swallowed about 6 pieces of Koolerz gum and had to be treated for Xylitol poisoning. It looks like everything's going to be fine (his blood values never showed any signs of liver damage, but we still have to take him back in a couple of weeks to check), but if we hadn't known about him eating the gum or if we hadn't known how dangerous it was (thank you, Internet!) Captain Jack wouldn't be with us today.