You know, the thing with dogs is that they swallow any manner of things that ought not to be swallowed by anyone, under any circumstances. They do it because they’re dogs, and that’s just what dogs do. In Help, My Dog Swallowed a Battery! I told you about one of those things. My big sweet doofus, Leroy, ingested a battery on a stormy night and I had to rush him to the vet. It all turned out fine, but still, it was a cause for worry.
The thing is, if it’s on the floor, or on a table at mouth level, or even on a countertop where a “counter surfing” dog can get at it, it’s fair game. You wouldn’t think that gum would be a problem, though, would you? Well, unless it’s on a countertop or on a table at mouth level or… well, you get the idea.
What Happens to You When You Swallow Gum?
Oh, come on. Let’s get real here. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve swallowed gum. We could probably make buildings out of all the gum I’ve swallowed over the course of my lifetime. See, back when I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to chew gum in class. That was a big no-no. So was always like “GULP! What gum, teacher? I have no gum!!” If I’d been in any real danger from swallowing gum I’d probably be long dead and buried.
Is it different when a dog has swallowed gum, though? It can be. Most of the time, if a dog has swallowed gum, it’s not going to be any worse than if you had swallowed it. It will simply pass easily through the digestive tract in the fullness of time. So if you come home, and you find that the package of Juicy Fruit that you left on the coffee table is gone, don’t sweat it. Gum is not all that good for dogs (and it’s not all that good for people either, but that’s a whole other issue), but this isn’t a cause for panic. Unless…
…Your Dog Has Eaten Xylitol
I know, it sounds like something out of a sci-fi show, right? The inter-galactic warrior, Xylitol! Savior of the planets and destroyer of the oppressive regime! Not really. What xylitol is, is a sugar substitute that has been determined to be safe for humans, but could be lethal to dogs. And if your dog ingests xylitol-laced gum, then there is good reason to panic.
The odd thing is, if your dog swallowed gum that contained sugar, it’s not all that bad. He will probably not experience any more discomfort than you would if you ingested an entire pack of gum. With xylitol, though, you do need to worry.
But There’s No Sugar!
Yes, you’re right, there’s no sugar. None, zero, zilch, zip, nada. But xylitol is an artificial sweetener that can be very harmful to dogs. If your dog ingests xylitol, you need to take action quickly. It occurs naturally in a number of foods, but the problem occurs when it is isolated and used as an artificial sweetener. Then, it can become toxic.
The scary thing is that it doesn’t take much. Frig all, actually. In large breeds, toxicity can occur at about 50 mg per pound of the dog’s weight. With small breeds, it takes even less to cause serious illness or even death.
So, what do you do if your dog has swallowed gum laced with xylitol? The first thing you do is get him to the vet right away. Don’t wait until he becomes sluggish, starts vomiting or develops seizures. The next step is going to be liver failure, and you have no time to waste. Symptoms will often occur in 10 or 15 minutes following ingestion.
I may have scared you here, and if I did, that’s good because you really don’t want to waste time if your dog has ingested xylitol. That said, though, if you catch it early on (as in the minute your dog eats the gum), the prognosis for recovery is very good. If your dog has swallowed gum that contains xylitol, it does not have to be a death sentence. The main thing is to get your dog to the vet right away before he goes into liver failure, because at that point it will be too late.
Monitor Your Dog
If your dog has ingested xylitol, you will need to monitor him closely. The condition can escalate rapidly, and you might end up at the point where your vet stops diagnosing and moves straight to treatment. If that happens, your vet is close to panicking – knowing that he or she has to do something this minute to save your dog’s life, and you can assume that the treatment will have to be aggressive and fast.
Most likely, your vet will try to make your dog vomit up the gum so that it doesn’t end up being absorbed into the intestinal tract. Then electrolytes will be delivered intravenously to stabilize your dog. Most of the time, the gum will pass and the measures your vet has taken will save your dog’s life.
An Ounce of Prevention…
… Is always worth a pound of cure. That kind of goes without saying. So unless it isn’t completely obvious, let me say that your best course of action will be to make sure that your dog never gets into gum of any kind.
Personally, I don’t chew gum. But if I did, you can bet I would keep it away from Janice and Leroy. Dogs just don’t know any better, and that’s why we’re supposed to look out for them. I also don’t keep grapes, raisins or chocolate in my house (see Your Dog is Not a Human, So Don’t Feed Him Like One). I just simply never keep anything in my house that could harm my dogs. I guess what I’m saying is that you can live without that piece of gum pretty damn easily. So give it up.
Use Some Common Sense
Ideally, common sense should be your first course of action when it comes to stopping problems before they begin. So make sure you’re not leaving anything out where your dog can get it. Dogs are curious, and if they think that you’re enjoying something, they’re probably going to wonder what all the fun is about – and pick up that piece of gum.
If you have anything else in your home that contains xylitol, you should get rid of that as well. I know you want to lose weight – me too, God knows! But if you’re leaving sugar substitutes around the house in places where your dogs could get at them, that’s not a good thing.
The Final Word
Get the xylitol out of your home. It’s not just a matter of “my dog swallowed gum.” Your dog could swallow any number of other things that contain xylitol. I’m not trying to scare you, but this stuff is deadly to dogs. So check our cupboards, and tell everyone else in your home that xylitol can kill your dogs. If you absolutely must have products in your home that contain xylitol, then make sure that they are well out of reach of your dogs. Their lives could depend on it.