Earlier this month, 164.1 million people watched the Super Bowl, but many opted for a furrier game day. According to Channel Guide Magazine:
Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl embarked on its ninth installment as counter-programming to the NFL game, and this year it also took in its biggest audience ever. Animal Planet says that Puppy Bowl IX brought in more than 12.4 million unique P2+ viewers over the 12 hours that the Puppy Bowl marathon ran (the original two-hour run, then several re-airs), a record for the programming event.
The event didn’t do too shabbily in the social media sphere, either. Animal Planet reports that Puppy Bowl IX was the most-buzzed-about show in all of cable, having the most tweets on Twitter all day Sunday and coming in second overall only to the Super Bowl. The premiere telecast of Puppy Bowl alone generated nearly 300,000 tweets, and produced 10 U.S. Trending Topics throughout the day. The Puppy Bowl sideline commentator, Meep the Bird, gained about 19,000 Twitter followers.
Some viewers came for the puppy players, some for the kitten half-time show, and some just wanted to cheer on the hedgehog cheerleaders! But none really came for the sponsors, like Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Vacuum and Subaru. The most jarring of all heavy handed product placement was for Ice Breakers gum.
Why gum is a sticky subject for pet owners
“DW” is a blogger who writes about dogs at A Dog Watcher’s Blog. She loved the Puppy Bowl, but not the connection to Ice Breakers.
“When the ref at the Puppy Bowl did that little time out for gum, it was cheesy and annoying, but mostly I just kept thinking, “wait, doesn’t that gum have Xylitol?” And I know it’s staged, but I still had the thought of what if the dogs got into that gum? I thought it was a weird sponsor, considering.”
Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is a common ingredient in sugar-free products such as sugar-free candy, chewing gum, baked goods, chewable vitamins, cough drops, and oral hygiene products. And, while it is safe for humans (and great for teeth!), according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, for a pet it may be life threatening.
So what does Xylitol do to pets? The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported the cases of “acute hepatic failure and coagulopathy associated with xylitol ingestion in eight dogs.”
“In addition to vomiting and lethargy, 5 of the dogs had widespread petechial, ecchymotic, or gastrointestinal tract hemorrhages. Common clinicopathologic findings included moderately to severely high serum activities of liver enzymes, hyperbilirubinemia, hypoglycemia, hyperphosphatemia, prolonged clotting times, and thrombocytopenia. Necropsies were performed on 3 dogs and severe hepatic necrosis was found in 2. In the third dog, histologic examination revealed severe hepatocyte loss or atrophy with lobular collapse.”
In more understandable terms, according to Dr. Eric Dunayer, veterinarian and toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs ingesting significant amounts of items sweetened with the compound xylitol could develop a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and even seizures. “These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately.” Dr. Dunayer also stated that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol ingestion and the development of liver failure in dogs.
Dogs and exotic pets with a danger in common
Most attention and study results regarding xylitol toxicity has to do with Man’s Best Friend, but that doesn’t mean that those of us who share our homes and lives with a more exotic pet need not sit up and take notice. The JAVMA reported that the FDA issued warnings not only for dogs, but ferrets. One ferret poisoned was found to have eaten some Tic Tacs that were sweetened with xylitol.There is also anecdotal evidence to support xylitol being dangerous for sugar gliders, rabbits, goats, and others. As for pet rats, the danger is extraordinarily evident… thanks to the sacrifices of lab rats. According to NaturalNews.com:
“In lab tests, xylitol will kill a rat 50% of the time in a dosage of 16.5 grams of xylitol for every 1000 grams of rat. Medium rats weigh 100-120 grams, or say .25 pounds. That means, to kill a 100 gram rat, you need only to get the rat to consume, 1.65 grams of xylitol. A typical xylitol piece of gum contains .7 – 1 gram of xylitol. About half the amount needed to kill a rat.”
How much is too much?
It doesn’t take a lot of xylitol to hurt a pet. ASPCA’s Dr. Dunayer says “Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients. However, we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener.” With smaller concentrations of xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed as much as 12 hours after ingestion. “Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that even if your pet does not develop signs right away, it does not mean that problems won’t develop later on.”
But different products do contain more xylitol than others, and thus are more dangerous to your pets. You can find out how much xylitol products have at xylitol.org. While the purpose of their list is to help consumers buy products that are the best for their teeth, nervous pet parents may find the information of use as well. Interestingly, one of the leading producers of xylitol, Xlear, is based right here in American Fork, Utah.
What to do
- Keep things sweetened with xylitol out of reach of all pets. This means being cautious not to drop certain baked goods when the dog is in the room, protecting your purse from curious ferrets who might want to purloin a dangerous treasure, and checking ingredients on any treats you might reward your rat with.
- If you discover your pet may have ingested a product with xylitol, even just a mint or two, seek veterinary assistance immediately. While a severe drop in blood sugar is potentially deadly, if treated quickly your pet may recover completely and be no worse for wear. Treatment by a qualified vet is crucial. It is important that you have the information for not only your regular veterinarian (or exotic vet, if your animals aren’t cats or dogs!) but emergency off-hour vets. Tell your vet that your pet may have eaten xylitol so they can treat them appropriately. If possible, bring the wrapper of the item in with you to the veterinary office.
- Make sure your household has access to emergency numbers. That includes your own vet, ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline, and the (human) Poison Control Hotline. ASPCA’s Hotline (888) 426-4435 is a great resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but a $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. The American Association of Poison Control offers free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. While the help is intended for people, not pets, they still are often able to help with animals in an emergency.
- If you ever see a product being marketed for pets containing xylitol, complain to the store carrying it. Complain to the manufacturer. Complain to as many people as needed till the product leaves the shelves for good.