Did your dog recently eat gum when you weren’t looking? Was it a full pack, or maybe just a leftover piece of chewed gum that you’d discarded in your wastebasket? Dogs are well known for eating all sorts of things they shouldn’t. But should you be worried about gum? The answer isn’t simple, unfortunately.
Chewing gum and bubble gum often contain xylitol, which can be very harmful to dogs. Not all gums contain this ingredient. If this xylitol is present, it comes with health risks, and could even be fatal. The quantity consumed will also play a role.
If you are concerned that your dog may have eaten gum, you must call your veterinarian for advice immediately, ideally with the packaging or ingredient list available. Even if the chewing gum was already chewed before consumption, there still may be traces of xylitol remaining. Let’s look at your next steps, as well as when you to be concerned.
Can Gum Kill Dogs?
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener commonly used within sugar-free gum. This active ingredient is very harmful to your dog because it causes excessive production of the hormone insulin, which normally finely tunes your dog’s blood sugar.
With too much insulin produced and circulating their body, dogs will experience low blood sugar also known as ‘hypos’ or ‘hypoglycemia’. If blood sugar drops too low, then affected dogs can experience serious symptoms like seizures, coma, or sadly even death.
Aside from its effect on blood sugar, xylitol can also damage the liver. This liver damage is sometimes irreversible, especially without early treatment, and can interfere with your pup’s ability to clot their blood, meaning that there is a risk of severe bleeding. This bleeding is sometimes internal, so it can be difficult to spot before it is too late.
Chewing gum or bubble gum containing sugar, sweeteners other than xylitol, and flavoring are less likely to cause harm. However, if large amounts are consumed, or your pup is a smaller size, there is a risk that it may cause a blockage. If you have any uncertainty about ingredients or the amount your pet may have eaten, then making an urgent call to your veterinary clinic would be best.
My Dog Ate Gum. What Should I Do?
If you are concerned your pup might have eaten gum, follow the steps below. While your pup may not suffer from toxic effects, it’s still best to follow these instructions in order to ensure your pet is safely cared for.
Step #1: Gather Information
Gather whatever additional information you can, but quickly. Things like the packaging or ingredients list, the brand name, the approximate time when your pup ate the gum, how much may have been eaten, whether the packaging was consumed, and whether the gum was previously chewed or fresh, are all useful for when you take the next step.
Step #2: Call Your Veterinarian
Call your veterinary clinic and give them the information that you can. Your veterinarian will likely ask additional questions. They will want to know what type of gum and in what time frame the gum is likely to have been eaten. They will want to know this as it will affect what treatment is needed. If you have the gum packaging available, you should bring it with you.
Step #3: Follow Your Vet’s Advice
When you arrive, your veterinarian will do a quick examination. If the gum was eaten within a few hours, they will likely give medication to make them sick. They may also perform blood tests to check for any sign of abnormal blood sugar levels, the inability of the blood to clot, or liver damage.
What Should I Avoid if My Dog Eats Gum?
It can be tempting in these situations to try to find a home remedy to help without seeing your veterinarian. However, time is of the essence if your pet may have consumed xylitol, so it is very dangerous to waste time trying to help them at home. The best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian.
Be aware that although there are many reported ‘try at home’ methods for making your dog sick. None are reliable or safe to perform at home. Since xylitol causes problems so quickly, contacting a veterinarian urgently will help to ensure your pet has the best chance of making a full recovery.
What Happens if a Dog Eats Gum?
If your pet eats gum, you must act quickly, even before symptoms develop. However, some of the symptoms caused by xylitol often develop quite fast. Within half an hour to an hour of eating the gum, they may show signs of low blood glucose.
This may include wobbliness, weakness, and incoordination. They may also vomit and, over time, may show signs of bleeding or a yellow discoloration to the skin, gums, and eyes, known as jaundice. You may also notice other general symptoms like being restless or drooling.
The first part of treatment is preventing their system from absorbing any further xylitol. This is done by giving medication to cause them to become sick, bringing up any gum left in the stomach. If this is not successful, an operation may occasionally be performed to open the stomach and remove any gum. A few doses of activated charcoal will also be given, as this will ‘mop up’ and prevent absorption of some of the xylitol.
To stop your pet’s blood sugar from continuing to drop, your veterinarian will likely feed frequent sugary meals or give a type of sugar solution directly into their vein via a drip. Other medications can be given to protect the liver from damage, and if your dog shows signs of excessive bleeding, it could require a blood transfusion.
Will My Dog Be OK?
Whether your pup will be OK after eating gum very much depends on the type of gum eaten. If it is a sugar-free type and contains xylitol, it can certainly cause a spectrum of very severe symptoms, which can lead to death if untreated.
However, the key to ensuring that Fido has the best chance of a full recovery is to act fast. If you can see a veterinarian and treatment starts within an hour of the gum being eaten, then treatment is very likely to be successful.
Preventing Gum Ingestion
To stop your canine companion from eating gum, ensure it is kept securely in a cupboard. Consider a securely locking trashcan that can’t be reached by your pet. Make sure any children in the home know that gum is bad for dogs and not to leave it lying around.
Also, remember that discarded gum on the street or pavements may still contain traces of xylitol, so take care when out on walks. Train a good ‘leave it’ command so you can prevent your pet from dangers reliably.
Xylitol in Other Products
Xylitol is not only found in gum. It is used as an alternative to sugar in some cakes, sweets, chocolate, and even some medications. Just like chewing gum, these food items can also cause harm when ingested. It’s imperative that you keep any items containing xylitol out of reach.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your dog has eaten sugar-free gum, you must act quickly. Check whether the gum contained xylitol and if it did, or if a large amount of gum was eaten, contact your veterinary clinic with urgency. The effects of xylitol can be really serious, but if treatment is started quickly, it can save their life.