If you are a dog person, you can understand what curious creatures dogs are. Besides tearing up old newspapers into millions of tiny bits and pieces, they love foraging for delicious food items to get a bite of. Because of their perennial penchant for exploration, a lot of the times, our dogs end up treating themselves on something they shouldn’t eat.
One of the most horrific nightmares for a dog person is to come home only to discover a living room merely sprawling with wrappers of candy or gum. A sheer amount of panic kicks in when your eyes can’t find the little brat who is probably hiding somewhere licking its lips.
Your panic is legit, but it much depends upon what your fuzzy little friend has ingested. However, if it is gum, you probably should worry a little.
I have been into dogs ever since I was a little kid in school. Dogs are brilliant and responsive creatures, and probably that is the reason behind my fondness for them. I am a 40 years old heart specialist and a senior faculty member at one of the largest medical colleges in my state. I live with my wife, Sophie, and my cute little son, Matt.
However, there is one fellow; I love as much as I love my son. Yes, you guessed it right; it’s my dog sandy. Sandy is a four years old Australian Shepherd I picked up from a shelter while she was still a puppy. She is smart, playful, and always hunting for food. Once, my dog ate a pack of gum and fell ill. I rushed her quickly to the vet, and after a few days at the facility, she was okay.
If your dog has eaten gum or a similar item, continue to read. This article talks about whether or not gum is harmful to dogs, and what you must do if your dog eats gum.
Is Gum Harmful for Dogs?
The first question that ran through my mind when my dog ate a pack of gum was whether it is harmful or benign for dogs to chew gum.
If you like to chew gum regularly, you don’t need to worry much about discovering your dog smacking its lips after swallowing a piece or two. The chewing gum will smoothly pass through a dog’s digestive system, and won’t cause choking. The real problem kicks in when your canine munches on sugar-free gum.
Chewing gum manufacturers who produce sugar-free gum add an ingredient in sugar-free gum called xylitol. Xylitol sweetens the gum without adding any calories, and it is perfectly safe for humans. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for dogs, for which xylitol is toxic.
Human beings can naturally detect the difference between xylitol and real sugar when either of them enters their system. The rationale is quite straightforward. Real sugar gives birth to the production of insulin, while xylitol being an artificial sweetener doesn’t.
Most regrettably, a dog’s body is designed in such a manner that it fails to detect the difference between the two. Regardless of the form, when a dog consumes xylitol, their body fails to realize the difference and starts to produce substantial amounts of insulin to process what it presumes to be insulin.
No matter how much insulin is produced in response to xylitol, it all goes in vain, for it only works on real sugar and no artificial sweeteners. So, what becomes of all that excess insulin? That insulin works on whatever sugar there is and continues to break it down at a rapid pace. As a result, the natural level of blood sugar in your dog’s system declines rapidly.
When blood sugar becomes too low, your dog experiences a condition known as Hypoglycemia. I the condition persists, it can send your dog in a deep state of shock and can also pave the way for fatalities to find their way in.
Sugar-free gum contains other artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and mannitol. Unlike xylitol, these sweeteners are not toxic to dogs. Despite being sweetening alcohols, these alcohols do not carry the same health risks as xylitol.
However, there is no reason why your dog should be consuming a high amount of artificial sweeteners. Please keep them at bay from artificial sweeteners.
Why Is Chewing Gum Harmful to Dogs?
Very few dog owners understand how detrimental sugarless gum can be for their dogs. With every passing year, the number of products containing xylitol is increasing in the marketplace, which is why an increasing number of xylitol toxicity cases are reported.
According to some studies, the number of xylitol toxicity cases in dogs has increased considerably since the first case was published back in the year 2002.
Generally, one piece of sugar-free gum contains a significant amount of xylitol, which is potentially fatal for a dog that weighs 10 pounds or less. An average portion of sugarless gum or mint contains approximately one gram of xylitol, which is enough to make your dog sick.
This means, for your dog to ingest a potentially toxic dose, one piece of gum or breath mint is enough. The scary part is that you can’t determine the amount of xylitol your dog has ingested. Especially if you can’t figure out how much xylitol gum contains.
If your dog has eaten a sugar-free gum, the best you can do is book an appointment with a vet. Make sure to take with you the wrapper of gum when you take your dog to the vet. The wrapper contains the ingredient list, which helps your dog’s vet determine the extent of the damage.
Watch the video below on why is gum bad for dogs and why they should never eat gum.
What if the Gum Has Already Been Chewed?
I was horrified when I found out that my dog ate a pack of gum, but you don’t have to.
If your dog has eaten only a small amount of an already chewed gum, most of the xylitol is gone. However, it is in your dog’s best interest if you take it to the vet, instead of hoping the chewed gum won’t make him sick.
Taking your dog to the hospital will allow the vet to admit your dog if necessary, and monitor its condition until the xylitol is out of its system.
What Ingredients in Gum Are Bad for Dogs?
As discussed earlier, sugary gums are far safer for your dogs than sugar-free ones. Sugarless bubblegum contains xylitol, which is sweetening alcohol that is potentially toxic for dogs.
In humans and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by insulin, which is released from the pancreas. However, in humans, xylitol does not release insulin from the pancreas, but in dogs, it does.
In dogs, xylitol gets absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. As a result, the dog’s pancreas starts to produce substantial amounts of insulin, which eats up all the blood sugar. This results in a condition known as Hypoglycemia.
If Hypoglycemia is left untreated, it can prove fatal for dogs.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Poisoning in Dogs?
When my dog ate a pack of gum, I was not sure of any signs or symptoms of gum poisoning. But now I am well aware to share those signs or symptoms with you.
If your dog has eaten a piece of sugarless gum only an hour ago and still hasn’t shown any symptoms of poisoning, you still need to take it to the vet.
A vet can provide the care your dog needs to lower the chances of supposed complications. The sooner you visit the vet, the lower will be the chances of your dog becoming ill.
In some cases, symptoms of poisoning do not show up immediately but begin to unfold as time progresses. Prompt supportive care might keep your dog safe, but these rarely have a pleasurable ending.
If you come home after work or school and find your dog acting in a rather unusual manner, you need to relate its behavior with the symptoms of xylitol poisoning. As discussed earlier, the symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs take not more than half an hour to show.
However, in some cases, this duration might go up to somewhere between 48 to 72 hours, after having consumed a sugarless gum. Just because there are no symptoms yet, does not mean that your dog is fine, and won’t show any signs a few hours later.
If your dog eats gum or any other food item containing xylitol, always consult a vet. Ask them what the symptoms are and what you need to be doing. If you have discovered your dog eating sugar-free gum, it is better if you consult a vet before the symptoms show up.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs.
Nausea and vomiting
Lack of coordination
The first two are not easy for you to detect, but they are potentially fatal, and if left untreated, can kill your dog. However, if you notice the last four, the chances are that the first two are also there. The only difference is that you don’t know it yet.
Xylitol is toxic for dogs, and the longer it stays within your dog’s system, the more fatal it can be. And if it remains for an unnecessarily long period within your dog’s system, it can take your dog’s life.
Therefore, you must take your dog to the vet as soon as you realized your pooch has eaten chewing gum and has started showing the signs.
When you call the vet’s, they will ask you a couple of fundamental questions, like the ones mentioned below.
- Does your dog show any symptoms?
- How much gum has your dog consumed?
- What is your dog’s weight?
- What kind of gum has your dog consumed?
- Could you please share the detail of the ingredients?
- How long ago did your dog eat gum?
If your dog has eaten sugared gum, there is no reason for you to take them to the vet. However, if your dog has eaten a significant amount of sugary gum, some complications can take place, and you still need to take them to the vet.
When your dog eats gum, it’s not just the gum it swallows. Along with the gum, the wrapper also enters its tummy, which can be a source of obstruction.
My Dog Ate a Pack of Gum, What Do I Do Now?
Here is what you must do when you are screaming, “Oh my gosh, my dog ate a pack of gum.”
First calm down. Then, take a look at a few tips that can come in handy if your dog has eaten gum.
First of all, you need to figure out what kind of gum your dog has eaten. There is nothing to worry about if the bubblegum was sugary, for it contains no xylitol.
However, if your dog eats sugared gums in big bulk, it might experience an upset stomach. Therefore, it is better to monitor your dog. If your dog exhibits symptoms of intestinal blockage, contact a vet right away.
If the gum your dog ate were sugary and without xylitol, your dog wouldn’t show any severe symptoms, neither will that gum be harmful.
If your dog has eaten sugarless gum and hasn’t shown any symptoms of toxicity, you must still call the vet. The earlier you contact the vet, the quicker will the prognosis be.
How to Treat a Dog Suffering From Xylitol Poisoning?
If your dog has eaten sugarless gum, the vet might instruct you on how to induce vomiting. If it has been some time since your dog at the gum, the dog might want to conduct blood tests to figure out the amount of glucose in your dog’s blood.
However, if your dog ate a sugarless gum less than half an hour ago, your vet might suggest inducing vomiting and administering 3% hydrogen peroxide to slow down the absorption process. Your dog’s weight dictates the amount of hydrogen peroxide that needs to be used.
If you find it difficult to induce vomiting, you are left with no other option than taking your dog to the vet. Some doctors conduct a procedure known as gastric lavage.
When you reach the vet’s, it is okay for you to feel a little nervous and panicked. And you should be, considering the severity of the situation. However, you need to stay composed, for it is in your best interest and that of your dog.
The chances of xylitol toxicity increase, if t is left untreated. But, if you reach the vet’s quick enough, higher is the likelihood of your dog’s recovery.
If the vet asks you to come over right away, they would probably skip the diagnosis and get right into treatment. The vet will conduct the necessary examinations to determine the level of blood sugar in your dog’s system and make the adjustments needed for their restoration.
In most cases, the vet tries to induce vomiting to get the gum out. If the gum can’t come out through vomiting, your dog might have to be hospitalized for further treatment.
During the time your dog spends at the hospital, the vet will administer IV fluids and medicines for liver protection. And they will continue to monitor the level of blood sugar in your dog’s system. These procedures will continue until that gum comes out of your dog’s system, and your dog is safe.
As discussed earlier, if vomiting is not an option, the vet will continue to monitor your dog’s blood glucose. If the glucose is on the lower side, your dog might need intravenous dextrose, to restore the level of glucose.
In most cases, dogs are hospitalized, just so the vet can monitor the level of blood glucose at an hour’s interval. The process of determining the level of blood glucose continues for as much as 12 hours until the levels have been restored to normal.
The vet will also monitor the liver values. However, it is essential to consider that the liver values don’t change immediately, because xylitol causes inflammation to the liver. Therefore, liver enzymes are only meant to go up only after two days of having ingested sugarless gum. Depending upon your dog’s current condition, your vet might want to start liver therapy.
Sometimes dogs are habitual thieves and are prone to stealing gum or candy. In such cases, food items containing xylitol should be locked away, far from your dog’s reach, how you would do with your toddlers.
Not only will it keep your dog safe, but it will also relieve you from a lot of stress. You can either switch to products that don’t contain xylitol or keep them away from your canine. After all, prevention is better than cure.
I dread remembering the time my dog ate a pack of gum, which is why I don’t want you to go through the same. Here are a few quick tips that will help you protect our dog from xylitol toxicity.
- Be mindful of what your dog eats.
- Keep gums and candies that contain xylitol away from your dog’s reach.
- Switch to brands that do not contain xylitol.
- If your dog has eaten a considerable amount of sugary gums, monitor them carefully, and if necessary, take them to the vet right away.
- Never skimp of regular medical checkups.