You're out for your evening walk and suddenly your dog makes a dive for an old piece of chewing gum that someone has discarded on the ground. Your dog has swallowed it before you can stop them. Is it an emergency? Our Boulder and Westminster emergency vets explain why gum is dangerous for dogs.
Why Gum Is Dangerous For Dogs
It seems like it shouldn't be a big deal if your dog happens to eat chewing gum, after all, people swallow gum all the time and it rarely becomes a problem.
The trouble is that when it comes to our canine companions, xylitol, a common sweetener in sugar-free gum is highly poisonous for dogs.
How much xylitol would my dog need to eat to get sick?
Xylitol is a low-calorie artificial sweetener found in many brands of chewing gum that is highly toxic to dogs. While not all sugar-free gum is sweetened with Xylitol, if your dog ate a piece of gum off the street there is just no way to know whether it contained this toxic ingredient.
Xylitol is so toxic to dogs that just 1 stick of gum may contain enough of the ingredient to poison a small dog.
Generally speaking, the dose of xylitol required to cause poisoning in dogs is about 0.05 grams per pound of body weight. Chewing gum typically contains about 0.22-1.0 grams of xylitol per piece! This means that a 10-pound dog could be poisoned by just one piece of gum.
Has your dog eaten gum containing xylitol?
If so urgent veterinary care is required. Please head to your nearest animal emergency hospital for urgent care!
What will happen if my dog eats gum with Xylitol in it?
Dogs are the only animals known to have a toxic reaction to xylitol.
Once ingested xylitol is quickly absorbed into your dog's bloodstream. It only takes 30-60 minutes for the effects of xylitol poisoning to begin to become apparent. This is why it is essential to get your dog to the vet immediately if they have eaten gum (or anything else) containing xylitol.
Xylitol ingestion in dogs typically leads to extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) caused by a massive release of insulin into the body. Once this occurs symptoms begin to arise such as:
- Pale gums
- Generalized weakness
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe liver damage
What is the treatment for xylitol poisoning in dogs?
There is no antidote for xylitol poisoning but your vet will monitor your dog very carefully for at least 12 hours, paying particular attention to your pup's blood sugar levels and liver function, immediately treating any symptoms that arise. Depending on your dog's symptoms they may require treatment including an IV glucose solution for up to two days in order to stabilize their blood sugar levels.
What other things contain xylitol?
While this blog is discussing gum, it's important for you to note that xylitol is used in a variety of other foods and products that your dog could randomly decide to eat such as sugar-free candy, peanut butter, toothpaste, chewable vitamins, nasal sprays, sunscreen, deodorant, baby wipes, hair products, and a number of medications for human use.
Contact your vet immediately if your dog eats anything containing xylitol, or that may contain this substance.
Is it still an emergency if my dog ate gum that doesn't contain xylitol?
Not all brands of sugar free gum contain xylitol. Sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, aspartame, and mannitol are not considered to be poisonous for dogs.
However, it is important to note that intestinal blockage is another hazard associated with dogs eating gum, particularly large pieces. Monitor your dog carefully for the following signs of an intestinal blockage and contact your vet immediately if symptoms arise.
Signs of an intestinal blockage can take a number of days to become evident and may include vomiting, lack of energy, reluctance to play, abdominal pain, constipation, or loss of appetite.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.