Very few things bring greater joy to my life than dogs, but sometimes it’s as bad as having a toddler. When your dog’s still young, and even when he’s not, he can get himself into all kinds of scrapes that are enough to turn your hair gray overnight.
It’s always scary when your dog eats something he shouldn’t. I’ve known dogs eat socks, plastic, pennies, and I even read a story about a golden retriever who not only ate a light bulb whole, but who managed to pass it out the other end without it breaking!
But what about gum? We know dogs shouldn’t eat it, but what should you do if they’ve scoffed some?
Help! What do I do now?
The most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is to check what kind of gum your dog’s ingested. Check the packet of the gum, and look for the ingredients.
Even though dogs shouldn’t have sweet treats, gum that contains sugar is actually not as bad for them as gum that’s sugar free, but if you’re in any doubt whatsoever, call your local vet, who’ll be able to give you the best advice.
However, if you check the ingredients of the gum your dog’s eaten and you see the gum contains XYLITOL then you must take your dog to the vet immediately. If your dog isn’t registered with a local vet, you can still take them to an emergency vet clinic.
What’s the rush?
Xylitol is a natural alcohol that can be found in plants, and is even used in some medicines. However, it’s toxic to dogs. According to the Pet Poison Helpline just one gram of xylitol is enough to poison a 22-pound dog, and you can find this amount in a single piece of gum.
Xylitol is so lethal to dogs because it causes their pancreas to release huge levels of insulin, resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar, causing hypoglycemia. This can lead to liver failure if untreated, which can be fatal. So time really is of the essence.
It’s not always easy to know how much gum your dog ate, but it stands to reason that the more they’ve eaten, the quicker their symptoms will appear, and the greater the danger they may be in.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA-APCC) reported that in 2014 they received a total of 3,727 emergency calls regarding xylitol poisoning. That means that at least ten dogs a day in the USA were at risk of death because they ate a product that contains xylitol.
Why is Gum Bad for Dogs?
You won’t find any products containing xylitol for dogs, so if your dog ate gum, you must act quickly.
There’s never a time when your dog should have gum of any kind. There’s no such thing as gum for dogs. They don’t need it to keep their teeth clean. If you’re worried about your dog’s dental hygiene, contact your vet or check out this guide on better doggy dental health.
When they eat objects like gum dogs are immediately at risk of intestinal blockage, so even if your dog eats gum that doesn’t contain xylitol this doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods. This is why it’s vital that you monitor your dog for any adverse symptoms as soon as you know he’s eaten the gum.
Xylitol toxicity works fast. The rapid drop in blood sugar can mean that within just ten minutes, they begin to show symptoms of xylitol poisoning. These include:
- Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
In extreme cases, a dog can fall into a coma, so make sure that you contact your vet as soon as possible.
What Will Happen to My Dog?
The good news is that even though xylitol is dangerous, dogs have every chance of recovery with the right treatment. So don’t waste any time!
Even before you take your dog to the vet, call them first. There may be some home remedies you can try to reduce the effects of Xylitol on your dog’s system before you arrive at the veterinary office.
Your vet may tell you to induce vomiting in your dog. If your dog ate gum very recently and he vomits, it can stop the xylitol from being absorbed into his bloodstream. Your vet will advise on how to make your dog vomit, perhaps with a solution containing hydrogen peroxide. If you can’t do it, then the vet will try once you get your dog to the clinic. Don’t try to induce vomiting unless your vet directs you to.
Make sure you take the pack of gum with you to the vet. Vets can read the ingredient list and check for all dangerous substances. Be sure to tell them the quantity of gum your dog ate and the type of gum it was if for any reason you don’t have the wrapper. The more information they have, the quicker they can reverse any damage.
Your vet will immediately monitor your dog’s blood sugar levels. In most cases, they’ll try to induce vomiting to get the gum out of your dog’s stomach as quickly as possible. There’s currently no test that can determine whether your canine friend has been a victim of xylitol dog poisoning, so often the vet will be working with a combination of the information you give them, and the symptoms your dog displays.
There’s no antidote to xylitol toxicity, but your vet will mostly be concerned about liver failure, so they’ll do what they can to protect the liver from the effects of the xylitol poisoning. This means that they may need to put your dog on IV fluids to give him the medicine needed to protect his liver.
If your vet can successfully conquer any liver damage, then there’s no reason why your dog won’t recover fully from his xylitol poisoning. Treatment can usually last between one and three days, depending on the amount of chewing gum your dog has eaten and how much xylitol it contained. As long as the effects of the xylitol are countered, your dog should pass the chewing gum within a couple of days.
You may be advised to give your dog milk thistle tablets for a while during their recovery; studies have shown that when it comes to xylitol dogs benefit from extra support to aid in liver recovery. The side effects are mild and there are several brands available.
Is it Only Gum that’s Dangerous?
Xylitol is becoming more and more widely used in different food products because it has a sweet taste but without any sugar. So, you’ll often find it in sugar free snacks and drinks, not only sugar free gum. These popular foods and household items could all contain xylitol:
- Peanut butter
- Ketchup/Barbecue sauce
- Candy and chocolate
- Baked goods
- Sugar free breath mints/ breath fresheners
You’re unlikely to give your dog most if not all of the above products, but peanut butter is a popular treat for dogs. If you do give your dog peanut butter, ensure that you always check the ingredients label for xylitol. Check every time you buy a new jar, even if you have a favorite brand. Just because a company may not have used xylitol before doesn’t mean they haven’t started using it now.
Dogs are known for foraging for food and gobbling down almost anything they find that’s remotely tasty, so the only way to ensure they don’t come into contact with anything containing xylitol is to keep food out of their reach completely. Keep your sugar free gum safely in your purse, away from prying noses.
What About Other Animals in the House?
There’s no doubt that xylitol is toxic to dogs, even in small amounts, but other animals don’t appear to suffer the same dramatic effects. Humans, for example, show no adverse effects to xylitol, and that’s why it’s safe for us to eat.
Cats have a different digestive system which means that if they do eat xylitol, their pancreas reacts differently to a dog’s. They aren’t affected by plummeting blood glucose levels, and are therefore not at risk from xylitol toxicity. This doesn’t mean you should feed them products containing xylitol, though, because it’s not good for them.
Prevention is Always Better than Cure!
We might not always be aware of the dangers our animals could be in, but as a responsible pet owner, you should always make sure you keep all edible food away from your pooch until feeding time, and try to stick to specially designed doggy treats only to reward them for good behavior. This way, you avoid the shock and havoc of them falling sick from substance poisoning.
A trip to the vet is never fun for your dog and it’s no fun for your wallet, either, so make sure the whole family knows to keep chewing gum away from their puppy!