The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a stronger warning that a common sweetener in chewing gum, mints and other products could kill or severely poison dogs.

The warning comes on the heels of a surge in deaths and severe illnesses from dogs accidentally ingesting the sweetener, xylitol, according to pet poison-control centers. The increase in pet xylitol poisonings was reported last November in The Wall Street Journal.

The FDA warning, titled “Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off,” was issued Thursday by the agency as a “consumer update.” A prior FDA warning, issued in 2011 by the agency’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, briefly warned of potential illness in dogs and ferrets from eating xylitol.

A type of sugar alcohol, xylitol is an ingredient in many foods but “can have devastating effects on your pet,” the FDA said in the latest alert.

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Dogs often eat foods and other items that their owners don’t intend. Ingesting just a few pieces of gum can poison even a large dog, experts say, with effects including low blood sugar, seizures, coma, liver damage and possibly death.

The FDA also called attention to the inclusion of xylitol in some nut butters. Owners often give peanut butter to their pets as a treat to get them to take medication.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.