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Dog owners warned against sugar-free items

Commonly used artificial sweetener can cause canine liver failure

Xylitol is very toxic to dogs.

Updated: 4:10 p.m. MT Sept 29, 2006

NEW YORK - Keep those sugarless treats out of Fidos reach. Veterinarians warned Friday that a commonly used sweetener might cause liver failure in dogs, and perhaps even kill them.

Their report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association appears to strengthen the suspected link between the sugar substitute xylitol, (also called wood sugar or birch sugar, is a five-carbon sugar alcohol) thought to make dogs sick, and possible liver failure.

Xylitol, a naturally occurring product, is found in many sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and toothpastes.

Researchers Sharon Gwaltney-Brant and Eric Dunayer with staff at a poison unit of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Ill., gathered information on eight dogs treated between 2003 and 2005 after eating products containing xylitol.

Each dog became ill, and five died or had to be put down because of liver failure, possibly from ingesting xylitol.

One dog who had to be euthanized had eaten four large, chocolate-frosted muffins containing about 1 pound of xylitol.

People dont think sugar-free gum can kill their dog. I didnt before I got into this. But this is something people should be aware of, Gwaltney-Brant, who co-authored the study with Dunayer, said in a statement.

Gwaltney-Brant said for dogs, ingesting even a small amount of xylitol can trigger significant insulin release, which drops their blood sugar and can be fatal.

A 22-pound dog who consumes one gram (0.03 ounces) of xylitol should be treated, she said, adding that further studies were needed to definitely establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

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