There are several things dog owners don’t properly prepare for. One of those things is when dogs get into things they shouldn’t get into. Usually, when a dog gets into something they shouldn’t get into, it’s nothing more than an annoyance and leaves you with a mess to clean up. However, there are times when it can cause panic. This is especially true when your dog eats something and you have no idea if it’s bad for them or not.
You’ve probably heard that dogs shouldn’t consume chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts, and so on. But what about gum? The scary truth is that gum can potentially be the most dangerous “human food” for a dog to consume.
There are two issues when it comes to dogs eating gum. The primary concern is poisoning from Xylitol. This is only a concern if it was sugar-free gum containing Xylitol as the sweetener. If the gum didn’t have Xylitol, you have no need to worry about poisoning. The second issue is intestinal blockage. Although this isn’t as serious as poisoning, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog for the next 24-48 hours to make sure they don’t have any blockage.
The answer above may sound scary, but the good news is if the gum did contain Xylitol, as long as you get your dog to the vet ASAP, they should be ok.
The Crucial Questions
If your dog consumed gum, you’ll want to call the vet immediately. They are most likely going to ask you the following questions to determine how serious it is and whether or not you should bring your dog in. Be prepared to answer the following:
Was it Sugar-Free Gum?
Regular gum with sugar isn’t poisonous, so if it was regular gum, then you probably won’t need to bring your dog into the vet.
What Are The Ingredients?
If it was sugar-free gum, the next question they will ask is what the ingredients are. Different companies use different artificial sweeteners in their gum. Xylitol is the only one that is dangerous for dogs. Your vet is asking for the ingredients because they want to know if the gum contained Xylitol
Did This Just Happen?
Your dog will begin to show symptoms of Xylitol within a few minutes. The vet wants to know how long ago it happened to determine the degree of poisoning. If it’s been longer than two hours and your dog isn’t showing any negative signs, that’s excellent news.
How Many Sticks Did They Consume and How Much Does Your Dog Weigh?
On average, one stick per ten pounds is dangerous. That’s why small dogs suffer from Xylitol poisoning more than large dogs. One stick can be deadly for a little dog, but one stick for a 50-pound dog probably won’t do much damage.
Are There Any Symptoms?
We will go more into detail on the symptoms below. The vet will use the symptoms to determine the level of damage from poisoning.
The Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning
Just like any medical issue, there can be a wide range of symptoms. Below are the most common.
- Fast heart rate
- Wobbly when walking
- Acting depressed
- Easy bruising
If your dog ate a pack of gum and they are showing some of these symptoms, call your vet ASAP and explain the symptoms to your vet.
Should You Induce Vomit?
One of the most common questions we are asked when it comes to dogs eating gum is whether or not you should induce vomiting. The answer is a big fat NO! Not unless the vet gives you permission.
If the gum didn’t contain Xylitol, it’s much safer to allow the gum to pass through the system than it is to force your dog to vomit it out.
If the gum did contain Xylitol, you’ll want to take your dog to the vet ASAP anyways. If they feel like inducing vomiting is the right thing to do, they’ll do it there.
The only time you should ever induce vomiting in a dog is when the veterinary office tells you to. They’ll also walk you through the steps on how to do it as safely as possible.
What Can You Do?
Not to be cliche, but the first thing you should do is stay calm and remember that even if the gum does contain Xylitol, the survival rates are high as long as you get your dog to the vet as soon as you can.
Here’s a checklist of what you should do if your dog eats gum:
- Take a look at the ingredients and check for Xylitol
- If it doesn’t have Xylitol, then just make sure your dog can eliminate waste over the next 1-3 days
- If it does contain Xylitol, try your best to figure out how many pieces your dog ate
- Call your vet and be prepared to answer the questions above in the “Crucial Questions” section
- Listen to what the vet says. Bring the dog in if they ask you to. Induce vomiting if they ask you to. Watch for symptoms if they ask you to.
- Point is, you need to listen and do exactly what the vet says at this point.
Feed Your Dog Sugar The Way to The Vet
If you can safely feed your dog or have someone else feed the dog on the way to the vet, that would be ideal. The reason Xylitol is so harmful to dogs is that the dog’s body doesn’t know the difference between Xylitol and sugar. When it comes to Xylitol, the body releases insulin. When insulin is released and there’s no sugar in the system, a massive drop in blood pressure will occur, resulting in hypoglycemia.
If you can get real sugar in your dog’s system, that will help increase the blood pressure so it isn’t quite as low when you arrive at the vet. If your dog won’t eat food, you can take syrup and rub it in their mouth.
Now that you know what happens to your dog when they eat gum that contains Xylitol, let’s go over how to make sure it never happens again. Being a responsible dog owner doesn’t mean you’ll never make mistakes. It means you’ll learn from your mistakes and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Talk to Your Kids
Kids love to feed dogs everything they eat. If your kids are chewing gum, they may be tempted to either feed the dog the gum they are chewing or give the dog a fresh new stick to enjoy. As you know, most dogs won’t turn down anything that might be food!
Because of the curiosity of both kids and dogs, it’s essential to talk to your children and let them know how bad gum is for dogs. We tell our kids that gum can make the doggie very sick, and when the dog is sick, she can’t play with us.
Put Your Belongings Away
Even though we think we put packs of gum in places dogs will never be able to reach, we might forget about the stick that we left in the pocket of our pants that are on the floor. Or we maybe have left some in our purses and the dog got in the purse.
Make sure you put all your belongings away in a spot where your dog can’t reach.
Xylitol is in More Than Just Gum
The sad truth is that Xylitol poisoning in dogs has increased over the years. The reason for this is because more and more human foods are using Xylitol as a sugar replacement. This isn’t a bad thing for humans, but it’s a terrible thing for dogs!
As a responsible dog owner, it’s your job to take a look at the ingredients of the things you purchase to make sure the food doesn’t contain large amounts of Xylitol. If Xylitol is mentioned in the first three positions of the ingredients list, you’ll either want to keep that food away from your dog or just keep it out of the house completely (that’s what we try to do). The best way to avoid accidental intake is not to have it in the house in the first place.
Here are some common things that contain Xylitol
- Sugar-Free Jello
- Sugar-Free Candy
- Some Peanut Butter
- Certain Cereal
- OTC Chewable Vitamins
Again, if you aren’t sure if an item contains Xylitol, just check the ingredients list. If it’s listed in the top three spots, it probably contains too much.
The key point from this article is that if the gum contains Xylitol, call your vet ASAP and do everything they say. If the gum does not contain Xylitol, it’s still a good idea to call your vet, but there’s a good chance you won’t need to bring them in. Remember to stay calm, as long as you get your dog into the vet as soon as possible, the survival rate is extremely high.
The important thing is to learn from your mistakes. Figure out how this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. No one is going to be a perfect dog owner, so learn from it, forgive yourself, and move on.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.