There are hidden dangers for dogs lurking in almost every corner of your home, and if you have a dog who’s more of a vacuum than a dog, the risks increase tenfold. As a dog owner, you probably know about the most common dangers (chocolate, onions, and human pain medications), but did you know gum is incredibly dangerous for dogs?
Is Gum Toxic to Dogs?
Your mom probably told you that if you swallow your gum, it’s going to stay in your stomach for seven years. This isn’t true, and this old wive’s tale isn’t why your dog shouldn’t eat gum. For dogs, the danger with gum lies with the sweetener, xylitol.
Xylitol: Why Gum is Dangerous for Dogs
Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that’s commonly used as a sugar substitute. It’s extracted from items like corn fiber and hardwood trees, and it’s found in processed foods like peanut butter, candy, and even toothpaste.
What happens if your dog eats xylitol? It leads to:
- Severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Liver failure
Did You Know?
Xylitol in Gum is Dangerous for Dogs but Not Humans?
Your dog’s blood sugar levels are controlled by the pancreas. When a dog ingests sugar, the pancreas releases insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, but xylitol triggers an excessive release of insulin. When dogs eat gum, a fast insulin release rapidly decreases the blood sugar within 10 to 60 minutes of consuming the dangerous ingredient in gum – xylitol. If hypoglycemia isn’t treated immediately, your dog experiences seizures and in extreme cases, possibly death.
How Much Gum is Toxic to Dogs?
Xylitol is 100 times more toxic than chocolate. A toxic dose of xylitol is reported to be 50 mg/pound of body weight. The higher the dose, the greater the risk of liver failure.
Sugar-free gum is the most common source of gum poisoning in dogs.
- 9 pieces of gum can lead to severe hypoglycemia in a 45-lb dog
- 45 pieces of gum leads to liver failure
- 2 pieces of certain brands of gum (1g xylitol/piece of gum) causes life-threatening hypoglycemia in dogs, and 10 pieces leads to liver failure in dogs
Symptoms of Gum Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms typically appear within 15 to 30 minutes after consumption and include:
- Weakness or muscle tremors
- Inability to stand or walk (drunk-like actions)
Diagnosing Gum Toxicity in Dogs
There’s no way to test your dog for xylitol ingestion. Your vet will run bloodwork to check blood glucose and liver values, but a concrete diagnosis relies on a history of eating gum or another xylitol-containing product.
Xylitol Toxicity (Gum) Treatment
There’s no antidote for xylitol toxicity. Supportive care in hospitalization is the only treatment. This includes:
- IV fluids
- Sugar supplementation to minimize any more hypoglycemia
- Liver-protecting drugs
Your vet might induce vomiting if it’s been less than 2 hours since your dog ingested the xylitol, but this isn’t something you should do at home, especially if they’re experiencing low blood sugar. Vomiting further drops their blood sugar, so it needs to be done under veterinary supervision.
Prevention is Key – Keep Dogs Away from Gum!
Reading labels and keeping gum and related products containing xylitol out of your dog’s reach is critical. Remember that xylitol isn’t just found in gum. It’s also found in oral hygiene products, peanut butter, and candy. Always read the label before you share your food with your dog, and keep gum far out of their reach, especially in the car.
Gum poisoning in dogs is 100 percent preventable if you use due diligence. If you’ve got a dog who eats everything that fits in their mouth, dog-proof your home like you would with a child. While gum toxicity isn’t always fatal, Xylitol can leave effects that linger for the rest of your dog’s life.