Owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but the responsibility that comes with it can’t be forgotten. Dogs in particular require a lot of care, especially when it comes to the food they consume. Unfortunately for Samantha Caress and Jordan Pellett, though, their golden retriever Luna passed away after she ate an everyday item in their Wisconsin home.
Living in Glenwood City, Wisconsin, Samantha and Jordan have a young son named Grady, but he wasn’t the first new addition to their family. Luna, like a lot of other dogs around the world, took that particular honor. Sadly, though, that tight unit was tragically broken in April 2015.
Devastated, the couple were forced to put down their golden retriever on the evening of April 21, 2015. She was just two years old. Unsurprisingly, the suddenness of the situation left Samantha heartbroken, as she reflected on the impact Luna made in her young family’s life.
“She [Luna] was like our first child,” Samantha told Valley News Live in April 2015 after her dog’s passing. “She was like our family before we even had Grady.” However, to make matters even more painful for the Wisconsin native, Luna’s untimely death was sparked by what seemed a fairly innocuous incident.
When Samantha and Jordan returned home one Monday, their beloved golden retriever became incredibly ill. The pair made a desperate dash to Oakdale, Minnesota, the following day, taking Luna to the Animal Emergency Center. Within a few hours though, they were forced to make a devastating decision when the treatment cost was revealed.
The center’s care was priced at $20,000, which Samantha and Jordan couldn’t afford. However, even that might not have been enough to save her. “And they said it was still only a 25 percent chance that she would live from it and we just didn’t want her to suffer so we had to put her down,” the young mother told Valley News Live.
As it turned out, Luna had eaten some “Ice Breakers” chewing gum while the couple were out on that fateful day. Unfortunately though, the lemon-flavored confectionery was laden with a sweetener named xylitol. While harmless to humans, it has a devastating effect on dogs’ livers due to consequent low blood sugar levels.
Sadly, Luna’s liver was badly damaged by the sweetener, leading to her passing. However, Dr. Justine Lee of the Animal Emergency and Referral Center of Minnesota had a stark warning for dog owners after this incident. “Certain types of sugar-free gum have huge amounts of xylitol,” she told Valley News Live in April 2015.
“A lot of people do not think about it, but xylitol’s a product in sugar-free vitamins,” Dr. Lee continued. “They are in toothpaste. They are in dental floss.” And that isn’t all, she confirmed, “They are in nasal sprays or in gums or in baked goods, and as little as a couple of pieces of gum can result in severe hypoglycemia, so a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and actually liver failure.”
Dr. Lee’s words were reiterated by Associate Veterinarian Alexis Freifeld, of the University Hills Animal Hospital. “It’s [xylitol] a sweetener, so it’s delicious and dogs want to eat it,” she told Fox News-affiliate KDVR. “The things that we see are low blood sugar and then with really high doses we can actually see really detrimental effects on the liver, which can be really scary.”
Within 30 minutes of ingestion, xylitol toxicity symptoms become clear in dogs. Those signs can include vomiting, tremors, weakness, seizures and poor coordination. However, if caught fast enough by a vet, the canine in question could be saved.
Ellen Wilkerson can certainly attest to that after her dog Murphy ate a pack of Orbit gum. “She was like, doing laps around the backyard, which is not normal for her,” the Centennial, Colorado, native told KDVR in April 2015. Concerned, she quickly checked the ingredients of the gum, and saw it contained the harmful sweetener.
Thankfully, Murphy’s life was saved as a result of her owner’s quick thinking, taking her to the vet straight away. “The faster we know it’s happening, we can actually induce vomiting and get it up and out of their system and so then we’re not going to see as much effects,” Freifeld told KDVR.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lee advised dog owners to be wary of what they buy at supermarkets. She suggests that products that contain xylitol in their first five ingredients should be kept hidden from curious canines. “Elevate your purse or your backpack, so your dog can’t get into it,” Dr. Lee told Valley News Live.
“Make sure you put vitamins or chewable products out of reach on a shelf,” she added. Elsewhere, Dr. Ashley Gallagher agreed with that sentiment. Working at the Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C., she urged dog owners to be extra cautious on this matter.
“You just have to be really careful because dogs are nosy little creatures and they are hungry all the time,” Dr. Gallagher told CBS News in 2015. “I know my dogs are, and they are just looking for a treat. So you have to really watch them.”
Unfortunately for Samantha and Jordan, they couldn’t act on those words to save Luna’s life. However, that heartbreak spurred them on to launch a very special project. “We started a fund on GoFundMe under Luna’s name,” the latter revealed to Valley News Live.
“It is called Luna’s Gift of Hope and all the proceeds are going to be going to CoCo’s Heart Dog Rescue at Hudson, Wisconsin,” he continued. “Our goal right now is set at pretty high at $20,000. It is just what it would have cost to try to save Luna. So if we could raise that and all those proceeds to help them save other dogs, out of the rescue, that’d be great.”
However, while the couple were grieving the loss of Luna, a new face was added to their family. Samantha and Jordan adopted another dog, named Gunner. Although it won’t bring the golden retriever back, it’ll help fill the void she so tragically left.
For one Wisconsin couple, the death of their dog Luna was utterly devastating. From that tragedy, though, pet owners across the world now know the dangers posed by products containing xylitol.