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What happens if a dog eats gum? Should I be worried?

Your dog ate gum, no big deal right? WRONG! Chewing gum can be a serious risk to your dog's health. Here, you will learn why gum is dangerous for dogs, and what to do if your dog eats gum. 

What To Do If My Dog Ate Chewing Gum

Many pet parents have experienced that moment when they walk into the kitchen and discover their dog has gotten into their gum package and eaten their chewing gum. If this has happened to you, you're likely wondering what to do next, which signs of illness to look for, and whether a dog eating gum is a veterinary emergency. 

These are completely normal questions to have because your dog's digestive system is different from humans and gum is not something they should eat. In some cases, dogs are perfectly fine if they've eaten a piece of gum and show no signs of sickness. 

Nonetheless, depending on the ingredients of the gum, your dog could become very sick and need to see a veterinarian as quickly as possible. 

According to statistics from the Pet Poison Hotline, we're seeing a substantial increase in the number of products that include the artificial sweetener xylitol. Consequently, xylitol pet poisonings have more than doubled in the past five years. In 2020, the number of calls to the helpline about xylitol poisoning was second only to calls regarding chocolate poisoning. 

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a low-calorie sugar substitute often used by manufacturers because its sweetness is similar to table sugar but with fewer calories. It is a type of carbohydrate, does not contain alcohol and occurs naturally in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, corncobs and trees. It is a common ingredient in many products, including toothpaste and sugar-free chewing gum. It can also be used as a tabletop sweetener or in baking. 

It's even found in the human body and research suggests that it may also prevent ear infections, improve dental health and possess antioxidant properties.

Though xylitol is harmless for people, it can be toxic for dogs. 

Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

The most common symptoms of xylitol toxicity to watch for if your dog has eaten gum:

  • Tremors
  • Stumbling
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How to Determine Whether It's an Emergency

If your dog has gotten a hold of your gum, one of the first things you might think to do is to search online for information about "what to do if my dog ate gum."

Some dogs start to show obvious signs of xylitol toxicity, such as lethargy or weakness. Perhaps they collapse or have trouble breathing, pale gums and vomiting or tremors or seizures. If this is true for your dog, it's time to bring them to our Tucson animal hospital right away because these are signs of toxicity and that is a veterinary emergency.

Even if your dog is not exhibiting these symptoms it is a good idea to contact Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson to determine the next steps. They may want to monitor your dog as a precaution.

What if My Dog Ate Sugar-Free Chewing Gum Without Xylitol?

If your dog eats gum without xylitol, your dog may end up with an upset stomach, especially if they ate a lot of it. You should keep a close eye on your dog because this gum may not be toxic but it does have other potential side effects if eaten, including an intestinal blockage. Symptoms of intestinal blockage in your dog include drooling, vomiting, lack of appetite, and abdominal pain. 

Since dogs are such curious creatures, you may want to switch to gum without Xylitol in the future to avoid any serious issues.

What to Watch for in the First 30 Minutes to 1 Hour

You will need to watch your dog for about 24 hours after you discover that they have eaten your gum. The first 30 minutes to an hour is when the most serious symptoms will start to happen. The earlier you get your dog checked out by the vet the better chance your dog will not have any serious complications. 

It usually takes anywhere from 10-24 hours for something to pass through your dog's digestive system. Gum is almost impossible for the body to break down, so it must pass through your dog's system if swallowed. 

If your dog has eaten a lot of gum, it can cause a blockage in your dog's intestines, keeping other food from passing. This happens if your dog also consumes the gum's wrapper or packaging. It could take a few days for the signs of a blockage to become clear to you.

Symptoms of a blockage can include vomiting, abdominal tenderness, constipation, lack of appetite, or unusual behavior, so it can be hard to tell if your dog is sick or has a blockage. If your vet suspects a blockage, X-rays will be needed to determine the extent of the issue. The gum can become stuck and if that happens surgery will probably be required. 

If you notice the gum coming out of your dog's bum, do not attempt to pull it out. This could cause serious damage to your dog's intestinal tract. Take your dog to a vet where the object can be removed safely.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog swallowed gum? Our team at Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson is here to help. Contact our Tucson emergency vets right away.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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