A dog chewing gum may not seem like that big a deal. Some people mistakenly think it might be a good way to keep their dog's breath fresh since brushing their teeth can be something of an ordeal. But the truth is that chewing gum may be one of the most lethal substances for dogs and you should keep your pet away from it at all costs.
So what makes gum (and many other products) such a danger? The answer is a substance called xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is found in gum. As it is an artificial sweetener, it is even more prevalent in diet gum, representing at least 70% of its total content. For humans, xylitol is a completely harmless additive, but for dogs it can be extremely harmful and even deadly. And worse still, it is almost impossible for vets to determine exactly how much xylitol it takes to produce a disastrous effect.
The reason that a dog chewing gum can be so dangerous is that the xylitol causes a surge of insulin in dogs that drastically drops their blood sugar level. Eating large quantities of gum can also lead to serious liver damage. The end result is the equivalent of going into a diabetic coma. In most cases, symptoms of xylitol poisoning begin to manifest within about 30 minutes after ingesting gum, so the quicker you get your dog treatment the better off he'll be.
Photo: aines / stock.adobe.com, Photo Illustration: Anton Hout
Dogs chewing gum can result in dangerous and potentially fatal xylitol toxicity.
For the most part, symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, weakness, coma, seizures, decrease in potassium, uncoordinated movements and lethargy or depression. If you notice any symptoms like these in your dog after he ingests gum, you should get him to the vet as soon as possible in order for him to receive treatment.
Treatment for a dog chewing gum will usually begin with inducing vomiting in order to rid the dog's system of any remaining toxin. Next, the vet will administer IV fluids in order to increase glucose levels while closely monitoring the dog for 24 hours. If, after that period, the glucose level and liver values are normal, your dog will be able to come home and should recover fully.
Keep in mind that Xylitol is not only in gum but could be used as a sweetener in other products—like peanut butter—that make them just as toxic to dogs.
Unfortunately, since the level of xylitol in gum can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, it is difficult to determine exactly how much gum may be toxic. In general, 3 grams of xylitol are considered lethal in dogs as big as 65 pounds. For larger dogs, such as the Australian Shepherd, it may take as much as a half a pack to get to that 3 gram level, while smaller dogs may reach it after only eating a couple of sticks of gum.
Because it is so dangerous to have a dog chewing gum, veterinarians recommend keeping gum and any other potentially dangerous substances out of reach at all times. And remember never to underestimate the power of your dog's sense of smell. Packaging is not necessarily enough to keep him away. Dogs can smell through wrappers and will still instinctively try to get at the food inside, so you are better off keeping that gum tucked away in a cabinet where he can't get to it.
Chewing gum may work to freshen our breath but it is definitely not recommended for dogs. If you are concerned about your dog's dental health, you're better off sticking with bully sticks or dental chews made especially for dogs. There is a wide range available at most large pet retailers so use them instead and keep the gum for yourself!
Have Dog Training Questions?
Check out these introductory dog training videos...
Get Australian Shepherd Info, Website Updates, Special Offers, and Cartoons...
You'll also receive a free copy of the ebook
My Everyday Dog Training Tools
by professional dog trainer Daniel Abdelnoor, "Doggy Dan"