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#IfOnlyIKnew: Baking Healthy Killed This Dog!

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: September 25, 2018

Updated: July 5, 2024

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lucy dog swimming died of xylitol toxicity

Like many health-conscious people these days, Melissa Wardrop is eating healthier and watching her and her family’s consumption of sugar.

She’s also a very considerate person, both generally and also in terms of taking her friends' sugar-free eating habits into consideration.

Sadly, it was the two “thank you” loaves of sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free zucchini bread she baked for her friends that led to the loss of her beloved family dog, Lucy, a beautiful and sweet 5-year-old Lab.

As is common for people on a diabetic-friendly or ketogenic (“keto”) diet, or any other “low carb” diet, Melissa replaced the sugar called for in her bread recipe with xylitol, an “all natural” and increasingly common sugar substitute that’s safe for people but extremely toxic to dogs. Sadly, like many dogs, Lucy “counter surfed” and helped herself to the bread.

Lucy puppy xylitol toxicity

Like far-too-many other pet owners, Melissa and her family were not aware of the serious dangers that xylitol poses to dogs. When Lucy started vomiting and was lethargic, they assumed that Lucy just had a bellyache from the bread she so happily gobbled down. As Melissa wrote in her email to us — and as we’ve heard from so many other dog lovers —

“had we known of its toxic effects we would have been able to start treating her earlier and we may have had a different outcome.”

Unfortunately, the outcome was the premature loss of Lucy’s life. In spite of plasma transfusions and other aggressive supportive treatments at both their regular vet’s office and the veterinary ER/ICU, this beautiful 5-year old pup — a much-loved “sleeping companion, playmate, and protector” of the Wardrop’s 5- and 9-year old children — is no longer bouncing around and having fun on this Earth, like dogs are meant to do. And because of xylitol, the Wardrop’s children now cry themselves to sleep at night, heartbroken over the agonizing loss of their beloved Lucy.

xylitol dog warning Lucy post

To compound their grief, this kind of accident isn't inexpensive. While critical veterinary care for some cases of xylitol poisoning can reach as high as $10,000 or more, the Wardrop's paid almost $2,000 before realizing that Lucy wasn't going to make it — compassionate euthanasia was the only option. This family has suffered in many ways.

And two days after Lucy's passing, in her moment of grief, Melissa wrote a letter to Xlear, the manufacturer of XyloSweet®, the product she used, asking them to post a warning on their packaging so that others could be spared the pain that her family has endured. At the time of publishing this story, she has not heard back from the company. (See update below)

Lucy dog with family xylitol toxicity
Lucy dog with daughter xylitol toxicity
Photos, courtesy of the Wardrop family

RIP Lucy

May you still be enjoying many long swims. You are missed.

lucy dog portrait in the woods

Xylitol sickens or kills more than 4,000 dogs each year!

We agree with Melissa that these devastating tragedies have to stop, and we know that increasing awareness is a critical key to preventing them. Preventive Vet will continue to work hard at bringing this awareness to as many people and organizations as possible, but we need your help to raise as much awareness as possible and to have the best chance at getting improved labeling. Please help by taking any/all of the easy steps outlined below:

  • Share Melissa’s Facebook post

  • Read and share our article: Xylitol: The “sugar-free” sweetener your dog needs you to know about

  • Check out and share our searchable list of the 700+ products that contain xylitol. You’ll be surprised by the types (and numbers) of products it’s in!

  • Support the Paws Off Act of 2021 (HR 5261) to increase xylitol awareness and information on product packaging.

  • Work in a vet practice, pet store, dog grooming or training facility, or any other place where dogs and dog lovers frequent? Download and display our (free) Xylitol awareness flyer.

    Xylitol Poster download
  • Work at a newspaper, TV or radio news station, or any other outlet that shares stories and awareness of public interest? Please help us get this awareness as widespread as possible — contact us (scroll down to Media Partners) and we’ll be happy to provide you with information and contribute to your news pieces and articles. We can also get you in touch with Ms. Wardrop, as she’s eager to get Lucy’s story out to help save lives and broken hearts!

Related articles and other resources


UPDATE: Sept 26, 2018

A sales representative from Xlear had been helping Melissa get a response from the CEO. After several attempts, she received this note (through the sales rep) this morning.

"We are very sorry for your loss and understand how difficult this time is for you and your family. While there is no response that could help ease the pain of losing a beloved pet, we want to assure you that we follow all labeling regulations for products designed for human consumption. We sympathize with your situation and again extend our condolences to your family."

As you might imagine, this type of "brush off" response saddens (or rather, frustrates) us, here at Preventive Vet. While Xlear may be following all (current) labeling regulations for their product, adding a simple, life-saving notification to their packaging wouldn't be a difficult thing to do. And there's even a precedent of another xylitol manufacturer already having done so!

Xyla xylitol dog toxicity

Sweet Natural Trading Co., the manufacturer of Xyla brand xylitol, as well as other products (including dog-safer, human sweetener alternative, erythritol) already includes a "not for pets" icon on their packaging.

So, if you're still going to use xylitol in your baking around your home, I'd suggest opting for the Xyla brand over Xlear.

The former at least cares enough about you and your pets to provide important label awareness to help you avoid the devastation that the Wardrop family recently suffered.

Xyla xylitol-dog toxicity warning label
Note: The icon and warning on the Xyla product above is a good start, but we’d love for it to be even better. “NOT FOR PETS” doesn’t really do the severity of the danger justice. “KEEP AWAY FROM DOGS” would be much better, especially if paired with “If your dog eats anything with xylitol in it, call a veterinarian right away.” in the green, cautionary “laxative effect” warning blurb next to the icon. Please sign our petitions to help us get these important labeling changes made.

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.