Darla Martinez had only stepped away for a few minutes, but that was all it took for her puppy to get into the candy canes.
As 12 News reports, the grandmother from Groves, Texas had rescued Harleigh earlier this year. In that short time, the 7-month-old chihuahua mix had become close friends with Martinez’s 4-year-old granddaughter.
Last week, Martinez came home from the store with a package of dog treats and a box of sugar-free candy canes. She put both of them on the table, then went to take a bath. When she returned, it was obvious that Harleigh had been eating the candy. She told 12 News:
“When I came back, I could hear crinkling of paper.”
At the time, Martinez didn’t notice anything different about her puppy. However, that night, she was awakened by the sound of Harleigh throwing up. When she found blood in the puppy’s kennel the next morning, Martinez took Harleigh to the emergency veterinary clinic.
At the vet, Martinez learned that her dog was dangerously ill. She told 12 News:
“They called me about an hour later just to let me know that Harleigh was very, very critical. […] They were doing all that they could. They started IVs. Then around one o’clock, she called me back and let me know that she passed and she didn’t make it.”
What Martinez hadn’t known when she bought the candy canes is that many sugar-free foods contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be deadly to pets.
According to PetMD, even very small quantities of xylitol can be dangerous (or even lethal) to dogs — like the amount found in a single sugar-free cupcake. What’s more, xylitol is used in many products, including kids’ vitamins, toothpaste, mints, condiments, pudding, gum, and more.
Consumption of xylitol causes a dog’s blood sugar to drop and lead to seizures, blood clotting, and more. Veterinarian Brady Hanson told 12 News that candy is the usual source of xylitol poisoning in dogs:
“It can cause liver failure and severe hypoglycemia. So they can go into a crisis. They can have seizures and actually go into a coma, like Harleigh.”
Martinez told 12 News she knew about other dangers to her puppy, but had no idea that sugar-free candy could be toxic to dogs:
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that’s this spunky, healthy, little girl would pass away from a candy cane. I was always worried about chocolate — but that’s nothing compared to this.”
The grandmother tearfully added that the hardest part was telling her granddaughter what happened. She now hopes to warn other dog owners to be on the lookout for xylitol and keep it away from their pets. As she told 12 News:
“Somehow, I feel like I failed her by leaving candy canes on the table.”