After the death of her beloved dog, a heartbroken London woman is warning others about a sugar substitute that is toxic to dogs of all sizes.
Kate Chacksfield loved her dog Ruby, a 7-year-old Hungarian Vizsla.
She was heartbroken when Ruby died in October 2018 after eating two brownies that Chacksfield had left on the counter in a sealed container.
It wasn’t the cocoa that killed Ruby, but xylitol, a sugar substitute that is becoming increasingly popular in households as people look for ways to lower their sugar intake.
Chacksfield, who is battling chronic fatigue syndrome, made the switch to xylitol after speaking with her doctor about ways to reduce her sugar intake.
“I knew about the dangers of chocolate to dogs but I had no awareness about xylitol at all,” Chacksfield told the British newspaper iNews.
“If I had, I would have rushed Ruby to the vets as soon as I saw she had eaten the brownies.”
Ruby had eaten small amounts of chocolate before and been fine, and Chacksfield had no reason to believe that this time would be any different.
“Ruby had eaten chocolate before and I’d rushed her to the vets then and I was told not to worry about small amounts,” Chacksfield said.
“I kept an eye on her and she seemed fine and didn’t show any symptoms, until after 36 hours.”
When Ruby suddenly became violently ill, Chacksfield rushed her to the veterinarian. They initially suspected rat poisoning, wondering if Ruby had accidentally eaten some while outside.
Chacksfield watched in horror as Ruby was hooked up to a myriad of tubes, fighting for her life.
Ruby was transferred to The Royal Veterinary College, where Chacksfield learned that xylitol was the reason for her dog’s suffering.
“It was there they asked if she could have consumed xylitol and I thought ‘oh my god, the brownies,'” Chacksfield said. “But by then sadly it was too late to save her.”
Ruby died of liver failure and a suspected stroke after hanging on for eight days.
“When she passed away it was just devastating,” Chacksfield said. “We are beside ourselves with sadness and guilt.”
According to Dr. Nicola Robinson, head of Veterinary Poisons Information Service, even a tiny amount of xylitol is toxic to a dog’s system.
“You’re talking one piece of chewing gum starting to cause problems in a small dog, like a Jack Russell size. Ten pieces would likely be lethal,” Robinson said.
“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,” she said. “Roughly a quarter of a teaspoon is enough to harm a dog the size of a Labrador.”
While it’s too late for Ruby, Chacksfield hopes her story will save the lives of other pets.
“I’m doing what I can now to warn others and raise awareness, as I just don’t want another dog owner to go through what I’ve been through,” she said.
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