Let’s face it – dogs aren’t exactly selective when it comes to snacking. Most of them will eat anything that smells halfway decent and never think of the consequence. Lucky for them, they are usually able to digest what they eat with minimal gastrointestinal difficulties.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. We all know things like chocolate are poisonous to dogs, but there are also lesser-known ingredients found in foods that can be a problem. The one most commonly found in gum and certain peanut butters is called xylitol.
Xylitol is a common food additive and sugar substitute. For humans, there has been no evidence of any adverse effects. But when it comes to dogs, xylitol can cause a hypoglycemic reaction that may result in liver failure.
In this article, we’ll go over what you need to do if your dog eats gum
What Should You Do If You Find Your Dog Has Eaten Gum?
Find out what type of gum he ate and what the ingredients are. If the gum is sugary without xylitol, your dog may end up with digestive upset, especially if he ate a lot of it. You should keep a close eye on your dog because an intestinal blockage may occur.
Symptoms of intestinal blockage in your dog include drooling, vomiting, lack of appetite and abdominal pain. Contact your vet if you see any of these symptoms in your dog after he’s eaten any amount of gum. If left untreated, an intestinal blockage could be fatal.
If the gum is sugar-free but did not contain xylitol (sorbitol, aspartame and mannitol are safe for dogs), the only possible complication you may see is the same as above – intestinal blockage.
If your dog has eaten gum containing xylitol, you should call your vet. If the ingestion has occurred within the last half an hour, your vet may recommend you try to induce vomiting at home with a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Only do this under the instruction of your vet. Some dog owners may not feel comfortable doing this or are unable to induce vomiting. In this case, you should rush your dog to the veterinarian before the thirty-minute time window expires.
If it has been more than thirty minutes since your dog has eaten the gum, or you’re unsure of when it happened, bring your dog to the vet easier. The sooner your dog receives veterinary treatment, the better his prognosis will be.
What are the Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning?
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs happen quickly – typically within fifteen to thirty minutes after consumption. Signs of this include:
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Liver failure
How Much Xylitol is Dangerous?
One piece of unchewed gum could contain enough xylitol to be toxic to a dog weighing only ten pounds. Gum that has been chewed may have fewer traces of xylitol. It’s difficult to determine how much xylitol a dog has consumed because the amount in sugarless gum is hard to tell, but it has been estimated that one average piece of gum or breath mint could have between 0.22 to 1.0 grams of the sugar substitute.
In dogs, 50 milligrams of xylitol per pound of body weight can cause the dose-dependent insulin release that results in hypoglycemia. Keep the wrapper with the ingredient list with you when you take your dog to the vet.
How is Xylitol Poisoning Diagnosed in Dogs?
If you suspect or know your dog has eaten something containing xylitol, your vet will make a presumptive diagnosis of xylitol poisoning, especially if symptoms of hypoglycemia are present. The toxicity happens to quickly that your vet will not wait for a concrete diagnosis before beginning treatment.
How is Xylitol Poisoning Treated?
There is no antidote for xylitol toxicity in dogs, but treatments of intravenous fluids, liver protective medications and sugar supplementation can be beneficial. Immediate and aggressive treatment is crucial to reverse toxicity and stop severe problems from developing.
Your vet will test your dog’s blood glucose level and potassium level to determine how much xylitol has been ingested and how far into the toxicity poisoning your dog is. In all cases of xylitol poisoning, your dog will need to be hospitalized so your vet can monitor his blood sugar, administer dextrose (also known as glucose,) intravenous fluids and liver protectants, as well as other needed supportive care. Your vet will monitor blood work often to ensure blood sugar and liver functions remain normal.
What is the Prognosis and Recovery for Xylitol Poisoning?
For dogs that receive treatment before any clinical signs of poisoning begin, the prognosis for recovery is good. If your dog develops uncomplicated hypoglycemia that is reversed quickly, the odds of a full recovery are also good. Unfortunately, if the liver failure or a bleeding disorder is seen, or if the dog falls into a comatose state, his prognosis of recovery is poor.
How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Eating Gum
If you use products that are known to contain xylitol, you should make sure they are stored out of your pet’s reach. As well as gum, xylitol can be found in products like mouthwash and toothpaste. Some foods can also contain xylitol, such as baked goods, drink powders, candy, ketchup, syrups and peanut butter. Xylitol can even be found in certain clothing, like sports shirts.
Do not share food with your dog unless you have carefully read the label to ensure it does not contain xylitol or any other potential toxins.