In February 2019 Kate Chacksfield’s dog died after ingesting food containing the artificial sweetener xylitol. Now Ms. Chacksfield shares her experience in an effort to warn others about the chemical’s lethal properties.
By Published on 21 Feb 2019
The 51-year-old Londoner had decided to make chocolate brownies. Her Hungarian Viszla heartily approved: seven-year-old Ruby had tasted her mum’s cooking before.
But this time, heeding the advice of her doctor, Kate added sweetener to the brownies instead of sugar.
36 hours after swiping two fresh brownies from the kitchen worktop Ruby collapsed and her health deteriorated fast. Despite the efforts of numerous vets, the dog died just over a week later of liver failure. Kate was devastated and shocked.
A race against time
During those final fraught days Kate’s last port of call for Ruby was The Royal Veterinary College in London.
‘It was there they asked if she could have consumed xylitol,’ Kate told iNews, ‘and I thought “oh my god, the brownies”, but by then sadly it was too late to save her.’
Xylitol is found in all sorts of sugar-free foods including chewing gum, cake mix and toothpaste. It is immensely toxic to dogs and the smallest amount ingested can be fatal.
‘It takes just half a gram of pure xylitol per kilogram of weight – around an eighth of a teaspoon – to cause liver failure in dogs,’ according to Dr Nicola Robinson, head of Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS). ‘Roughly a quarter of a teaspoon is enough to harm a dog the size of a Labrador.’
‘I knew about the dangers of chocolate to dogs,’ Kate said, ‘but I had no awareness about xylitol at all.
‘When she [Ruby] passed away it was just devastating. We are beside ourselves with sadness and guilt. All I can do now is try to raise awareness. It only takes your dog having a lick of the leftovers from a takeaway or yoghurt.’
The symptoms of xylitol poisoning usually appear between 1 and 12 hours after ingestion. These include:
If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance contact your local vet as soon as possible.