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Tic Tac, gum ingredient toxic to dogs

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(NBC) - A sugar substitute found in a variety of sugar-free and dietetic cookies, mints and chewing gum is proving highly toxic, and even fatal, to snack seeking dogs.

Veterinarian Dr. Michael Kopf continues to treat 7-year-old Gracey for Xylitol poisoning. A few weeks ago, Gracey got into a box of Tic Tacs.

"This can be a fatal process," Kopf said.

Within minutes, Gracey's insulin surged and her blood sugar fell to dangerously low levels. Seven-year-old Julia Sciortino explained what happened to her dog.

"She was on her back and she was just shaking, it was really scary," Julia said.

Julia's mother, Dr. Pat McGuire, was in the kitchen when it happened.

"I heard a noise in the dining room. I looked through the door. Gracey was on her back having a seizure," she said.

McGuire knew her beloved pet lab was in serious trouble, but she did not know the cause. Fortunately, Julia figured it out.

"I was in my room and my Tic Tacs were in the back of my counter. When I went back to my room, the box of Tic Tacs was in the middle of my floor all chewed up," Julia said.

Had McGuire not acted quickly and called her veterinarian, Gracey could have died within 30 minutes.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used in many sugarless products, from candy and gum, to toothpaste and baking goods. It's safe for humans, but when ingested by dogs, it can cause a dangerous surge of insulin and life-threatening liver damage.

Kopf said the number of Xylitol poisonings is increasing.

"It's getting scary how common it is. As a sugar substitute the chemical is becoming ubiquitous in our society because of human weight problems," Kopf said.

"Everyone is surprised. No one has ever heard of this before," McGuire said. "I was even surprised some friends said they gave their dogs Tic Tacs as breath fresheners."

Gracey is on the upswing. Kopf induced Gracey's vomiting within the crucial 30 minute window and put her on medication to address her elevated liver enzymes.

It's unclear how Xylitol affects cats, rabbits and other household pets, but Kopf said don't presume if it's safe for humans that it's equally safe for pets.

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