THE owners of a dog which almost died after scoffing a packet of chewing gum have told their story in a bid to warn others.

Blandford couple Gill and John Pittard's four-year-old dog Luna managed to reach a container of gum after it fell from a windowsill onto a kitchen counter.

The sugar-free gum contained xylitol, an artificial sweetener, which is not only harmful but potentially fatal for pets as it catastrophically affects blood sugar levels

Luckily John, a doctor, recognised the danger and rang Damory Veterinary Clinic in Blandford straight away.

He was advised to bring Lena in immediately.

Cesar Sastre, veterinary surgeon at the practice, said Lena’s arrival was one of the most dramatic he has ever experienced.

He said: “Sweeteners such as xylitol in sugar-free gum are killers. Xylitol stimulates a rapid, dose dependant insulin release that can result in profound hypoglycaemia and 24-48 hours post ingestion can cause liver failure and spontaneous bleeding.

“John and Gill arrived quickly but Lena had already collapsed and was fitting. It’s not every day you see this kind of thing in practice.”

Lena was put on a glucose drip and given liver supplements. The pet was monitored constantly with blood sugar levels checked every hour during the day and the night.

Initially it was not clear whether the xylitol poisoning would cause permanent liver damage and fatal complications.

Cesar, mindful the situation was “touch and go”, warned his colleague Beth Seare that she might need to administer a blood transfusion.

Within 24 hours, however, Lena was showing signs of recovery. The dog's blood sugar levels were returning to normal and the risk of bleeding was diminishing. After three nights of intensive care, the pet was fit enough to go home.

Cesar said: “Lena is very lucky to have survived the liver failure. It was definitely a life and death situation.

“I think the key here is the fast reactions and the hard work of everyone here at the practice.

"Nurses were doing checks on Lena every hour throughout the night – it was a real team effort and I am super proud of them.

“It’s fantastic to see Lena fully recovered now but we do need to educate owners on the dangers of sugar-free gum because it’s so easy for dogs to get hold of it but the consequences can be fatal.”

Relieved owner John, a former GP who now works part-time at Blandford Community Hospital, said: “Gill and I knew the situation was serious, particularly the first 24 hours but the vets were brilliant. It would have been devastating to lose Lena, she’s had a tough enough time of it as it is.

“She was one of two survivors of a litter of four feral puppies rescued by a rehoming organisation in Cyprus, so she had a difficult start.

“We’ve had her since October 2016 and always taken her and our other dogs, two Scotties, Spam and Molly, to Damory where they have received the best of care.”