Help! My Dog Ate Gum!
Dogs are curious animals, and they tend to get into all kinds of stuff — especially stuff that they really shouldn’t be getting into, like that gum at the bottom of your purse.
But is gum actually bad for dogs? Or will your pup be OK if she accidentally swallows a piece or two (or an entire pack)?
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Chris Angiello, a veterinarian at Hudson Animal Hospital in New York City, to find out if dogs can eat gum.
Is gum bad for dogs?
Not all gum is made with the same ingredients, and there are some types of gum that are particularly bad for dogs, especially the sugar-free kind.
“Sugar-free gum can be dangerous for dogs,” Dr. Angiello told The Dodo.
Many sugar-free gum recipes contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol which is poisonous to dogs. Xylitol can also be found in sugar-free candies and similar products, so it’s important to keep any sugar-free items away from your pup.
(While there are other types of artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free gum that aren’t typically toxic to dogs — like sorbitol, aspartame and mannitol — xylitol is common enough that you should always be careful.)
So how much xylitol is poisonous to dogs? The amount of xylitol in gum varies by brand and by flavor. Some brands of gum contain small amounts of xylitol, so it could take a few pieces of gum to cause severe hypoglycemia. Other brands contain more xylitol, so it could take only a piece or two for your dog to get seriously ill. (For reference, some gum contains 0.2 grams of xylitol per piece of gum — which means a 10-pound dog would only need to eat about two pieces of gum to eat a potentially toxic amount.)
It’s also more dangerous if your dog eats a fresh, unopened stick of xylitol-containing gum than an already chewed piece, since some of the artificial sweetener is removed from the gum while it’s being chewed.
But if your dog picks up a piece of gum off the street, you should still keep an eye on her because chewed gum can potentially be toxic too.
“Gum that has already been chewed is certainly less likely to cause harm but can still be dangerous depending upon how much sweetener remains,” Dr. Angiello said.
Gum can also be a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage, especially if your pup eats a lot. If you have a small dog (with a small stomach), she could be at greater risk to develop an intestinal blockage, especially if she ate part of the wrapper or packaging.
Regular gum (not sugar-free) could also upset your dog’s stomach, since it’s not something she should be eating, but it’s not usually poisonous to dogs — and the risk of poisoning from sugar-free gum is much more common than an intestinal blockage.
What happens if a dog eats gum?
Lethargy Seizures Weakness Vomiting Pale gums
If your dog ate sugar-free gum that contains xylitol, symptoms will probably show up about 30 to 60 minutes after eating it. You’ll likely see symptoms that are a result of low blood sugar, aka hypoglycemia, which include:
In severe cases, ingesting too much xylitol can lead to liver failure.
Even if you don’t see any symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet right away because it could be difficult to tell how much xylitol is in the gum or how much gum your dog actually ate.
If your dog ate gum without xylitol, she’ll probably be OK if it was a small amount. But look out for these symptoms of intestinal blockage (these signs could take a little longer to show up — it usually takes about 6 to 10 hours for a dog to digest something she ate):Vomiting Constipation Lack of appetite
As always, if you ever have concerns about what your dog ate, or if you know she ate something she shouldn’t have, you should contact your vet just to be safe!
What should I do if my dog ate gum?
The first thing to do if your dog ate gum is to figure out what type of gum she ate. If your dog ate gum containing xylitol, then immediately take her to the vet — it’s an emergency.
Try to bring the gum wrapper and ingredients with you to the vet so they can check the amount of xylitol that your dog ate.
“Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if ingestion was recent (within an hour or so) and if the patient is not already symptomatic,” Dr. Angiello said. “Hospitalization for 12 to 24 hours may be recommended to monitor blood glucose. If blood glucose is low, then intravenous supplementation will be given.”
If your dog ate gum without xylitol, then the biggest risk would be intestinal blockage or choking, which would partially depend on the amount that your dog ate (and if she ate the wrapper or packaging too).
If it was a small amount and definitely didn’t contain xylitol, you can monitor your dog very closely at home, but if you notice symptoms of intestinal blockage, take your dog to the vet right away to get it checked out. Your vet will likely give your pup X-rays, and surgery might be needed if the gum is stuck.
If you notice something sticking out of your dog’s butt, like gum (ew), don’t pull it out — let the vet do it. You could damage your dog’s intestines if you try to do it yourself (and it’s kind of gross).
So if you’re a gum chewer, be sure to keep your gum far away from your pup, especially any sugar-free gum that contains xylitol, and never store it in places where she might like to snoop. Let your dog join you with this bubble gum squeaky toy instead!
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