(WHTM) — A sweetener that is found in many foods can be deadly to dogs and puppies.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the sweetener xylitol is a white powder that looks and tastes similar to sugar. It also has the same sweetness as sucrose, but contains two-thirds of the calories. It can be found in some peanut butters, drink powders, puddings, ketchups, pancake syrups, and barbecue sauces, as well as sugar-free gum, breath mints, and a few over-the-counter medicines.

This sweetener is safe for humans, although it can have a mild laxative effect when it is eaten in large amounts when first eaten. But this substance can be harmful or fatal in dogs.

According to VCA Animal Hospital, this is because xylitol does not create the release of insulin from the pancreas in humans. If a dog eats the sweetener, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause a large release of insulin and can cause a drop in blood sugar. The release is so fast that an effect can occur between 10 and 60 minutes after ingestion. If this is left untreated, it can be life-threatening.

Signs of xylitol poisoning can be any or all of the following, according to VCA animal hospital:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination or difficulty walking or standing
  • Weakness/sluggishness or lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures ( in severe cases)
  • Coma (in severe cases)

The amount of xylitol ingested before toxicity is expected varies. If a small amount is ingested, a drop in blood sugar will occur, while higher amounts can cause liver failure.

If you suspect your dog has eaten an item that contains xylitol, you should immediately contact your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline at 1-800-213-6680. VCA says that you should not induce vomiting unless told to by your vet.

VCA says prognosis is good for dogs that are treated before clinical signs develop, or for dogs that develop uncomplicated hypoglycemia that is quickly reversed.

Be aware of any products that contain this ingredient and make sure you store the product far away from your dog.