ASHLAND CITY, TN (WZTV/CNN) - A Nashville-area family is coping with the loss of their 3-year-old husky mix, who died unexpectedly of liver failure after eating sugar-free gum.
"We joke that he was a lot like me. He loved to eat, and he loved to snuggle,” said dog owner Christy Figlio.
Figlio says the family’s husky mix, 3-year-old Canon, seemed perfectly healthy – until Saturday night when he suddenly stopped eating and started drinking a lot.
They rushed him to the pet hospital as soon as it opened Sunday afternoon. At that point, Canon couldn’t walk.
“He started vomiting the water, and so, that kind of was the red flag that made us decide to take him to the hospital,” Figlio said. “They gave us some IV fluids, sent us home with a bunch of antibiotics and told us if he got worse, take him on to Nashville’s pet ER.”
Shortly after they returned home, things took a turn for the worse.
"When he dropped to the floor and started shaking, I panicked,” Figlio said.
The family rushed Canon to the emergency veterinarian, who told them the dog’s liver was failing because of an artificial sweetener called xylitol.
"She said, 'You know, I don't know if he's been into any kind of peanut butter, any kind of sugar-free gum.' And I looked at home, and we have Mentos gum and that was the No. 1 ingredient,” Figlio said.
Veterinarian Dr. Eva Evans says xylitol is extremely deadly to dogs.
"The first signs you're gonna see usually are weakness, muscle tremors, inability to stand, and that progresses to seizures, as their blood sugar keeps dropping lower and lower,” Evans said.
She says if a dog eats the artificial sweetener, it’s a race against time to get them to the vet.
"It's a true emergency because the longer you wait, the more damage it does to the liver,” Evans said.
For Canon, the xylitol had done too much damage. After hours of treatment with things just getting worse, his owners had to let him go.
"I could just tell. I knew we weren't gonna be bringing him home. And I lost my dad a year ago, unexpectedly, and this was a very close second,” Figlio said.
Figlio says their other dog, age 6, keeps looking for Canon. She says she just wants others to be aware of what’s in their homes, so no one else has to go through what her family is going through.