Dogs are notoriously curious creatures that will get into just about anything they can get their nose into. If left unattended, dogs will chew on anything that smells even remotely appetizing. While this is usually nothing more than a minor annoyance, there are instances in which it can be dangerous. One dangerous substance that dogs should never consume is gum.
Chewing gum can wreak havoc on a dog's body. While it may be a tasty treat for humans, there are certain ingredients within many commercially available gums that are toxic to dogs.
Unfortunately, poison cases from gum are far too common. Many owners heed the warnings of feeding chocolate to dogs, but there are millions that unaware of the dangers of gum.
If your dog has eaten even a single piece of gum, it's imperative that you seek professional veterinary help immediately. Luckily, there are many things that your vet can do to help your dog recover. So what is it about gum that's so dangerous?
My Dog Ate Chewing Gum, Should I Be Concerned?
You should always be concerned if your dog consumed something that they shouldn't be. Chewing gum is not a food that's easy to digest by any means. Even humans can have difficulties passing it through the digestive tract.
It tends to sit in the body for a much longer period of time than standard food. As it sits, it can affect the way your dog's body absorbs nutrients and can cause some harm as it moves. With that being said, it's not the gum itself that's dangerous. Instead, it's the ingredient called Xylitol.
Xylitol is a sweetener that's used in many commercial foods. It's often used in sugar-free gums as an alternative to natural sugar.
The ingredient is often touted as a healthy alternative. It's a sugar alcohol that's naturally found in foods like blueberries and lettuce.
The substance is also found in woods, corn fiber, and is even being used on clothing. While it's not a huge deal for us humans, it has a profound effect on your dog's health.
What Does Xylitol Do in a Dog's Body?
When consumed by a dog, their body will react to the substance by producing high levels of insulin. This process can start within minutes. In most cases, it happens within 30 minutes.
This rapid production of insulin will cause your dog's blood sugar level to plummet. This results in hypoglycemia. When hypoglycemia occurs, your dog won't have the energy to function. Their body will start to shut down. If left untreated, the issue can be fatal.
Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning typically occur within the half hour. However, in some cases, symptoms won't manifest until long after they've consumed the gum. It can take up to 72 hours to start. This all depends on your dog's size and how much they ate.
It's important to bring your dog to the vet the moment you find out they've eaten gum so that you can take action and decrease the chances of your dog experiencing serious side effects.
Beyond the normal effects on your dog's blood sugar levels, they may also experience liver problems. Liver failure can occur between 12 and 24 hours after consuming the gum. Xylitol causes an increase in liver enzyme activity. It can result in internal bleeding, liver malfunction, and death.
Signs of Toxicity
As mentioned earlier, symptoms show up fairly quickly after consumption. The sugar alcohol will make itself known a number of ways. Here's a list of some of the most common symptoms.
How Much Xylitol is Dangerous for Dogs?
It doesn't take much at all to be toxic to dogs. The specific amount depends entirely on how much gum they ate and the brand's particular recipe. Typically, you can expect to see anywhere between a quarter of a gram to a full gram of Xylitol in a single piece of sugar-free gum. With this amount, a single piece of gum is toxic for a 10-pound dog.
What About Other Sweeteners?
If your dog ate gum that doesn't have Xylitol, there are no immediate side effects to worry about. Other artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sorbitol, or mannitol don't have the same ill effects as Xylitol.
Even gum with pure sugar is better than those with Xylitol. With that being said, there are no reasons why your dog should be consuming gum. It's important that you keep gum out of reach to avoid any potentially dangerous issues.
With gum that doesn't contain Xylitol, your dog may still suffer from digestive issues. Depending on the amount they eat, you can expect vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. If these problems persist, you should contact a veterinarian to determine how to proceed.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Gum with Xylitol
The first thing you need to do is contact a veterinarian immediately. You'll have to act fast to save your dog. They'll likely ask a variety of questions to get more information about what your dog has consumed and recommended that you take your dog to the emergency clinic as soon as possible.
To make your vet's job easier, there are a number of things you need to find out. You'll need to know:
If you're headed to the emergency clinic, make sure to grab the wrapper or box that the gum was in to show the vet.
Getting It Out of Your Dog's System
When you call the vet, they may recommend that you induce vomiting. This is usually recommended if your dog ate the gum fairly recently and hasn't started to show any symptoms of poisoning yet.
Getting the gum out of your dog's stomach as soon as possible is a great way to lessen the severity of your dog's issues. Once it's out, your dog's body will stop absorbing the Xylitol.
The most common method to induce vomiting at home is by using hydrogen peroxide. A 3% solution will often do the trick. Your vet will walk you through the process on the phone. Typically, the process involves ingestion. You must then shake or walk your dog to ensure that the solution is mixed with their stomach contents.
Here is a video on how to induce vomiting in your dog by Dr Justine Lee
Professional Help When Your Dog Consumed Gum
Whether you choose to induce vomiting at home or not, it's still important to seek professional help. The vet can induce vomiting a number of different ways. More importantly, they'll have the tools to treat and monitor your pet safely. Unfortunately, there's no exact cure to treat Xylitol poisoning.
The vet will monitor their glucose levels and administer dextrose via an IV. Dextrose is a form of glucose. Supplying your dog with dextrose may help to balance out their blood sugar drop. They'll monitor their levels continuously over the course of the next few hours.
They may also administer medications to protect their liver. Monitoring of their liver activity is also crucial. Depending on the severity of the case, they may start liver therapy as well.
Over to You
All in all, dogs should never consume chewing gum. Xylitol in sugar-free products can prove to be fatal if not addressed immediately. To avoid potentially dangerous situations, make sure to keep gum far away from any curious pooch.