Minty fresh breath and a decent workout for the jaw are certainly two reasons why we all love to chew gum, but the flavours and freshness are only half the story.
After all, whatever we eat, our pets are sure to want to try too, and sometimes that can lead them into being tempted to taste the kinds of things they really ought not to.
With that in mind – can dogs eat gum? Let’s examine the facts.
Is gum good for dogs?
Because gum is designed to be chewed and spat out by human beings as a means of refreshment, rather than nourishment, it’s safe to say that chewing gum is not good for dogs to try and eat.
In fact, chances are it can do more harm than good.
For one thing, gum is pretty cloying and tacky by its very nature, and that’s likely to bewilder your dog as much as form a hazard.
Your dog could choke on the gum, or eat such a large amount of it that he or she accidentally makes a big wedge of it and tries to swallow.
Even if they get it down, there’s always the chance that the gum might lodge in their digestive systems in some way, causing severe complications.
Of course, the flavours and overall sweet scent of gum is still likely to entice dogs, and even though most dog owners know better than to hand any over, it’s a bad idea to do so.
After all, it’s not food – and even if it were, it holds no nutritional value, and gum is instead often flavoured artificially, which creates a number of issues to consider too.
Dog owners who feel exasperated with the nasty, stinky, musty smell of their dog’s breath might well feel tempted to remedy the situation the same way they would for a human friend – by handing over some chewing gum with a minty fresh flavour.
While that may seem to do the trick immediately, it’s a huge gamble on your dog’s health, and a rather careless one considering fresh mint leaves, ground down, administer that same breath-freshening effect to your dog while also holding some nutritional value. Home remedies are often the best!
Dangers of gum for dogs
Many of the dangers of gum eaten by dogs come from the fact that both the sugar-free and sugar included varieties of it simply aren’t very good for your dog’s health.
And that’s before we get to the fact that this stuff was never meant to be swallowed to begin with – by humans, let alone by animals.
Sugar-free gum is actually likely the most dangerous of those options, believe it or not – this is because of the chemicals put into sugar-free gum to make it sweet to the taste.
The most dangerous such chemical is xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is widely recognised by vets and specialists as being incredibly toxic to dogs.
More than just leading to feeling poorly – dizziness, dehydration, extreme drowsiness and lethargy – xylitol poisoning in dogs can actually be fatal in some circumstances.
While your dog would need to eat quite a big amount of gum to run that risk, some dog owners insist on getting their dog checked up on by their vet if they even suspect their animal has eaten anything with xylitol in – it can be just that nasty.
But of course, sugar doesn’t offer much better. Gum gets easily stuck in dogs’ teeth, which only compounds the issue of tooth decay that sugar brings with it.
While gum might freshen the breath, it doesn’t do anything for oral hygiene in dogs whatsoever, and instead can actively work against it.
Sugar also is bad for dogs inasmuch as they don’t handle it well during digestion when compared to human beings.
Weight gain in canines is largely recognised as on the rise nowadays, and much of that is because owners who give their dogs food designed for human consumption don’t always realise how much sugar is in everything – and how easily it makes dogs overweight. Even gum carries this risk.
Of course, the choking hazards and other internal obstructions, both of airways and digestive tracts, are another problem with dogs eating gum that has to be recognised.
Gum isn’t food, no matter how enthusiastically your dog eats it, and so there’s no reason to be offering it your pet pet for any reason.
What happens when your dog eats gum
Gum is one of the leading things dogs cannot eat that leads them to vet visits, and thousands of otherwise happy and healthy dogs get rushed to their vets after eating gum for the kinds of reasons we have been discussing.
When your dog eats gum, he or she is effectively treating the equivalent of a human chew toy as food.
A dog doesn’t realise that gum is designed to be chewed on to extract the flavour and refresh the mouth, before being spat out and discarded.
And dogs certainly don’t know how entirely artificial gum can be, riddled as it is with chemicals, sweeteners, preservatives and more. It’s all harmless to their human masters, because we know that gum is not to be treated as food.
The main culprit to watch out for here, though, is xylitol. While we have already touched on just how toxic this sweetener can be, it’s why this is the case, and how it goes about undermining your dog’s systems, that’s the really scary part.
Xylitol is harmless to human beings, but in dogs causes horrific imbalances in the liver thanks to drastically altering the blood sugar levels present in your dog’s body.
Because these are all so out of whack through eating xylitol, it can set off a chain reaction that can lead to liver damage or even outright liver failure.
What to do if your dog eats gum
Even the most diligent and well-intentioned of dog owners can sometimes fall afoul of their very pet’s own capabilities in sneaking off for treats they aren’t supposed to have.
It only takes one optimistic pooch and a packet full of lots of pieces of gum to cause a temptation – especially since dogs have such a keen sense of smell, and can sense the good aromas of that gum.
If you find that your dog has eaten gum, it’s best to first identify how much – this more or less directly correlates to how serious an issue this is overall.
For instance, one or two small pieces of gum might see your dog get away with nothing more than a tummy ache and a telling off from his or her master, but a whole packet of gum is a very different story.
Whether or not you suspect that the gum your dog contained has xylitol in it, you’re advised to get your pet to a vet as soon as you can if he or she has evidently eaten a large amount of gum – a packet’s worth or more.
This is because the gum could lead to obstructions inside your animal, or otherwise pose a threat to his or her health and well-being thanks to the chemicals and additives all gum has.
It’s the same as swallowing any foreign object – gum is not food, and your dog’s body will have a dreadful time trying to treat it as such.
With that in mind, your dog might well begin choking on the gum after eating is, so be ready to try and dislodge this stubborn sticky substance from them and get some cool water into their systems as quickly as you can after they vomit.
On the other hand, you dog might get a stomach ache and constipation, which can be difficult to overcome.
A simpler diet of plain boiled rice and plain cooked chicken is good for getting beyond these issues, so get ready to help your pet with some good old fashioned home cooking.
There’s no reason whatsoever to be giving your dog gum, even if he or she has stinky breath. It’s not food, but your dog doesn’t know not to swallow gum, and is more than likely to do so.
This isn’t helped by the fact that gum tastes great and often smells enticing to your pet to boot.
Unfortunately, the risks to your dog’s health in gum are far too great for you to simply slip a sly wedge of gum your dog’s way.
The amount of sugar in gum is an issue, for one thing, but artificial sweeteners like xylitol that pose genuine health risks – even lethal ones – to your dog are quite another.
Consider also that gum has no nutritional value, and is quite a choking hazard that can create constipation and internal blockages that will require professional attention to overcome.
Don’t give your dog gum for any reason, and by all means make sure they never try to eat it themselves.