HOUSTON - Local veterinarians say a common ingredient found in many kitchens can poison pets.
The symptoms are immediate, the effects can be deadly and reacting quickly could be the difference between life and death.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that you can buy in most grocery stores. It's found in gum, toothpaste and many baked goods.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, says the number of accidental poisonings is on the rise. In fact, ASPCA says there were nearly 3,200 poisonings across the U.S. last year.
Houston veterinarian Kristin Olsen says xylitol acts quickly in dogs and cats leading to a severe drop in blood sugar, vomiting and eventually liver failure. That can all happen in just a matter of days.
Other symptoms of xylitol poisoning include disorientation, as if your pet is in a stupor, and seizures. If that happens, take your pet to the vet right away. Be sure to take the product packaging with you because the ingredient information can help your vet track the source of the poison and better help them treat your pet.
So how can you protect your pets?
Check the ingredients on anything you buy that contains artificial sweetener, so you know what is in your home.
There's not a clear answer why xylitol can be dangerous for pets but if fine for humans to eat. It could be because animals have much different metabolisms than us.
The ASPCA has a poison control center for pets. Go to http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/ for more information.
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