Dogs are scavengers by nature which means they enjoy chewing and eating all sorts of interesting things they shouldn’t, which could include gum. Sugar-free gum can contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol (pronounced zai-luh-tol) which is dangerous for your dog .Here’s what you need to know and what you need to do if this happens to you.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Gum
What Will Happen Next?
If your dog has recently eaten the gum then the veterinarian will be able to administer a drug to induce vomiting. This will help them bring up the gum, and therefore, reduce the amount of Xylitol that is absorbed.
If your dog has already digested the gum or is showing symptoms of Xylitol poisoning, supportive treatment may be required. Treatment will usually be aimed at monitoring and controlling your dog’s blood sugar levels as Xylitol causes these to dangerously drop. Blood samples will help determine whether your dog has low blood sugar levels, as well as checking other parameters such as their liver values.
Correcting a low blood sugar can be done through hospitalizing your pet on an intravenous drip, where fluid is given directly into their bloodstream which contains glucose (sugar) to help counteract any hypoglycaemia. Making sure your pet’s blood sugar is kept normal will also help with other side effects. However, if your dog’s symptoms are severe, he may need medication to counteract seizures such as sedatives or epilepsy medication.
If your dog ate a lot of gum or its packaging, an intestinal blockage could occur. Gum can’t be broken down and digested, so large quantities could become lodged in the stomach or intestines, stopping food and water passing through. If this occurs, your dog may show symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, lethargy and abdominal discomfort.
If your dog is diagnosed with an obstruction, he may require abdominal surgery to remove the foreign material.
How Can I Tell If Chewing Gum Contains Xylitol?
Xylitol is found in variable quantities in many sugar-free or low sugar type products so check the packet ingredients to see if it is listed. If you aren’t sure or can’t find the packaging it is still safest to call your veterinarian in an emergency.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many other low sugar or sugar free items, including diabetic snacks, to give them a more enjoyable sweeter taste. It occurs naturally in several different plants but is extracted and processed into a white powder to be used as an ingredient in many everyday products. Common items include things like sugar free peanut butter, sugar free candy, gum, mints and breath fresheners, toothpaste, medications, some low sugar protein bars, pre-made pudding, cake and cookie mixtures and low sugar Jell-O. If your dog has eaten any of these items that list xylitol in their ingredients then you must phone your veterinarian as soon as you can.
What Happens If My Dog Eats Xylitol?
Ingestion of xylitol causes your dog’s pancreas to release large amounts of insulin into their blood stream which causes a sharp drop in their blood sugar levels. If these sugar levels become too low, they suffer with hypoglycaemia, a condition which can cause harmful side effects. Irreversible liver failure can also be seen in some cases and is potentially fatal. The following symptoms may be seen in a dog suffering with xylitol poisoning:
- Pale gums
- An increased heart rate
Larger and heavier dogs can tolerate more toxin than a small dog. As a guide, 0.05 grams of xylitol per pound of bodyweight can be toxic and an average stick of gum or one mint can contain anywhere up to 1 gram of xylitol, depending on the brand – so just a single piece of gum could be enough to make a 10-pound dog very unwell. This is why it is very important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible, as early treatment is vital.
Do I Really Need to Call the Vet?
Yes! You must phone your veterinarian as soon as possible in order to get your dog prompt treatment.
Are There Any Other Poisonous Ingredients in Gum?
Xyilitol is what we are most concerned about for our pets - most of the other ingredients are not harmful though they may cause mild gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
Is Chewed Gum Dangerous to My Dog?
As with most toxins, the side effects are dose-dependent. This means that the risk to your pet increases as more xylitol is consumed. A dog that has only eaten a small piece of already chewed gum will be at a lower risk (as much of the xylitol will be gone), than a dog that consumed a whole new gum pack. However, we are unable to measure the exact amount that was left in the chewed gum so it is still best to call your veterinarian for advice.
How Do I Prevent This From Happening Again?
Remember that most dogs are opportunistic, so take away the temptation and keep any gum, candies, mints and medications well out of their reach. It is best not to keep gum in coat pockets or handbags that dogs may get their nose into. If they are particularly prone to scavenging behaviour you may even want to consider not keeping products containing xylitol in your house at all, or by switching brand/type to reduce the risk.
In summary, the key things to remember are:
- Sugar-free gum containing Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs
- Acting quickly leads to the best outcome
- Call your veterinarian for advice
Featured image credit: tienuskin, Shutterstock
- What to Do If Your Dog Eats Gum
- What Will Happen Next?
- How Can I Tell If Chewing Gum Contains Xylitol?
- What is Xylitol?
- What Happens If My Dog Eats Xylitol?
- Do I Really Need to Call the Vet?
- Are There Any Other Poisonous Ingredients in Gum?
- Is Chewed Gum Dangerous to My Dog?
- How Do I Prevent This From Happening Again?