The scary scenario of dogs eating chocolate gets a lot of press, but did you know that gum can be just as poisonous to dogs? If your dog eats gum – a whole pack or even a single piece – she could experience serious, life-threatening issues within a matter of minutes.
Here’s what to do immediately after you detect that your dog has eaten gum.
0-30 Minutes In: Determine Whether It’s an Emergency
There are two major risks to your dog when it comes to eating gum: intestinal blockage and poisoning. Poisoning is the more immediate risk, although both can quickly become emergencies. Not all gum is poisonous to dogs, but determining whether or not the gum your dog has eaten contains Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is of paramount importance. Not all “sugar free” gum contains Xylitol. Generally speaking, sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, aspartame, and mannitol aren’t necessarily toxic to dogs.
If your dogs eats gum, you should immediately determine whether it contained Xylitol; if so, rush your dog to an emergency vet as soon as possible. Even a small amount of Xylitol is toxic to dogs which in some brands can mean just two or three pieces. The smaller your dog, the greater the risk.
Xylitol is quickly absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream where it causes the pancreas to release insulin which can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, and even death. It only takes 10-60 minutes for these effects to take place, so time is of the essence.
30 Minutes – 1 Hour In: Watch for Serious Symptoms
If you’ve determined that the gum your dog ate did contain Xylitol, you should be well on your way to the emergency vet by now so vomiting can be properly induced. The earlier your dog is treated, the better her prognosis.
If the gum did not contain Xylitol, you’ll still want to call your vet. She’ll likely give you advice on which symptoms to watch out for in the coming minutes and hours. Symptoms of toxicity cause by ingesting the gum might include:
- Pale Gums
- Collapse or Trouble Breathing
If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, or if your dog seems to be behaving strangely, go ahead and take your dog to an emergency vet clinic to be on the safe side.
1-2 Hours In: Understand Intestinal Blockage
It usually takes anywhere from 10-24 hours for something to pass all the way through your dog’s digestive system. Gum is almost impossible for the body to break down, so it must pass all the way through your dog’s system if swallowed. If your dog eats a lot of gum, it can cause a blockage within her intestines, keeping other food from passing. This is particularly likely if she also consumes the gum’s wrapper(s) or packaging.
It could take several days for the signs of a blockage to become apparent. Symptoms of a blockage include vomiting, abdominal tenderness, constipation, lack of appetite, or unusual behavior. If your vet suspects a blockage, X-rays will be needed to determine the extent of the issue; if the gum is stuck, surgery will probably be required.
If you notice a foreign body (like a wad of gum!) protruding from your dog’s rectum, do not attempt to pull it out yourself! This could cause serious damage to her intestinal tract. Take her to a vet where the object can be removed safely.
Do you chew gum? If so, be sure to keep it away from your dog’s reach at all times! One of the most common calls to poison control hotlines is about dogs who’ve consumed gum. Don’t let that be you.