Canon the dog stopped eating, then collapsed. A piece of gum may have caused his death

Canon in sunglasses.
Canon in sunglasses. Christy Figlio

At first, Canon’s owner thought he just had a stomachache.

The 3-year-old Siberian husky wasn’t eating his food, which was unusual for him. But Christy Figlio, of Nashville, Tenn., said she and her family didn’t think much of it.

Within 24 hours, Canon was gone.

The culprit? Figlio believes it could have been a single piece of chewed-up gum.

“Sunday morning we woke up and he was very lethargic. He didn’t want to get up and move around. It was almost like he was drunk ... but he was just drinking constantly,” Figlio told McClatchy in a phone interview.

When he started vomiting the water back out, Figlio said they knew it was time to take him to the vet. The doctors did blood labs and gave him antibiotics for a liver infection, but weren’t sure it was anything serious. They told Figlio to take him home.

“Within an hour, he couldn’t stand and he started shaking, almost like having seizures,” she said.

They rushed Canon to the 24-hour emergency hospital, where doctors put him back on IV fluids and started giving him drugs to boost his glucose levels, which had dropped to a fourth of what was normal.

His fever of 107 degrees showed no signs of breaking, and eventually he was placed on life support. “He started having seizures again. He was in a lot of pain — so we had to let him go,” Figlio said.

It was heartbreakng for her. She had just lost her father from pancreatic cancer a year ago, and Canon had become her “support dog,” she said.

But what caused Canon’s death? The veterinarians said there was little question: Xylitol.

Xylitol is a common sweetener found in sugar-free chewing gum. It is deathly poisonous to dogs, however: so poisonous that Figlio’s vet said a single chewed-up piece of gum, perhaps tossed over the fence into their yard, would have been enough to cause liver failure.

A Nashville family is raising the alarm after their 3-year-old dog Canon died hours after likely eating a piece of gum and succumbing to liver poisoning from Xylitol, a sweetener commonly used to sweeten gum. Christy Figlio

“Not a week goes by where I don’t have someone call me that had no idea that xylitol is a very serious and potentially life-threatening toxicity to their dog. In low doses, it causes your dog’s blood sugar to drop rapidly and in higher doses, it results in acute liver failure! Both of these scenarios, if left untreated, are life-threatening,” Jo Marshall with the Pet Poison Helpline wrote.

“The first signs you’re gonna see usually are weakness, muscle tremors, inability to stand, and that progresses to seizures as their blood sugar keeps dropping lower and lower,” veterinarian Eva Evans said, according to WZTV. “It’s a true emergency, because the longer you wait the more damage it does to the liver.”

Figlio said she had no idea where Canon may have eaten something with Xylitol, but said vets told her it was the only real explanation for what happened. Her family scoured the house trying to find any products that could have contained the sweetener and took their other dog to the vet to make sure he hadn’t been poisoned too.

“We’re trying to spread this message so (nobody) else has to go through it. We’re concerned with our dog that is still alive, if he can find something,” she said. “We had to throw away peanut butter that had Xylitol in it. We wanted to get the message out there to everybody.”

Boise police and other agencies are investigating the poisoning death of Ruth Hurt's dog Rue.