What to Do if Your Dog Eats Gum

Picture of a dog chewing gum

If your dog was curious enough to go into your purse and eat a piece of gum, you’re probably wondering whether you should be worried and go to the vet right away or if you can wait for a little more time before being concerned.

That is precisely the topic of today’s article. In it, we will discuss what issues gum ingestion can cause in dogs, if you really should worry, and what to do if this has happened.

What type of gum did your dog eat?

There are two main factors that you should consider before taking your canine friend to the vet.

One of them is the amount of gum that your dog ingested since large quantities can cause an intestinal blockage. The other factor relates to whether the gum contains artificial sweeteners or not.

If your dog ate a very small piece of gum that contained sugar instead of artificial sweeteners, you probably have little to nothing to worry about. It will most likely go through your dog’s digestive system and be eliminated the next time he or she poops.

Sugar alcohols and why they are dangerous

If the gum does contain artificial sweeteners, you have to check just what kind were used. Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, maltitol, erythritol, and sorbitol can cause a lot of health problems in dogs.

Unfortunately, not all people realize how dangerous they are. So, many pet guardians will automatically think that just because they themselves don’t develop any symptoms after chewing gum, the same is going to happen to their Fido. This is as far from the truth as possible.

The label of some gum varieties simply states ‘sugar alcohols’, which can make it challenging for people to know just what artificial sweetener was used in the manufacturing process.

However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so we recommend taking your dog to the vet even if you don’t know whether the gum contains xylitol or not.

When you should be worried

Xylitol intoxication is very severe and can cause death in less than several hours, so time is of the essence. You have to keep an eye on your canine buddy for up to four hours, especially if you have no means of bringing him or her to the vet clinic sooner than that.

Normally, dogs don’t show any signs right after they swallowed gum, but it depends on how much they have ingested, too. If a Shih Tzu swallowed a small piece of gum, hypoglycemia, liver failure, and seizures can occur in less than an hour. But if a Saint Bernard did the same, it will take longer and sometimes, there will not even be any symptoms present.

Once 30 minutes have passed after the dog swallowed the gum, you might see symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, pale gums, or troubled breathing. If you notice any of these clinical signs, you should get to the vet clinic as soon as possible.

Sugar alcohols take about thirty minutes to an hour to get into your dog’s blood stream, so that’s when the symptoms become apparent.

The only thing that can happen once more than one or two hours have passed and you haven’t noticed any other symptoms is an intestinal blockage. Gum can’t even be broken down by the digestive system, so it needs to be eliminated through the dog’s feces. But when a large amount has been consumed, there is the possibility of the gum causing an obstruction.

Dogs that develop this health problem show the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pain when being touched on the abdomen
  • Anxiety (and an alarmed look on the dog’s face)
  • No appetite for food or water

How much gum is too much?

As previously mentioned, not all types and amounts of gum can be dangerous to a dog’s health. While the examples that we gave were a little extreme, meaning that the dogs in question were either too small or too big, there is a quantity that is presumed to be toxic — and it’s 1/10 gram of xylitol per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

Unfortunately, some gums contain more than that per piece. So even if your canine companion doesn’t end up eating the whole pack of gum, a small piece might still cause hypoglycemia and the rest of the symptoms that we have already noted.

Dogs are particularly sensitive to xylitol, so you should always make sure that you do not keep gum and other products that might contain this sweetener within your pet’s reach.

But not just gum can contain xylitol. Nowadays, it’s present in a wide variety of products, from sugar-free candy and yogurt to mouthwash, breath sprays, baked goods, Jell-O, and even protein bars.

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we couldn’t agree more with this statement. If you like chewing gum and that’s your guilty pleasure, it might be a good idea to switch to something else or at least a variety that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners.

While some dogs might not be interested in gum at all, especially the minty kinds, others will be curious and try it. The last thing you want to happen is for Fido to swallow some gum when you are not at home. You could end up coming back from work to a tragedy.

Last, but not least, if your dog ate some gum and it contained xylitol, go to the vet clinic right away and get on the phone with your vet, too.

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