Health risks of dogs ingesting sugar free gum
Xylitol is potentially harmful to dogs
"My dogs just ate five sticks of sugarless gum" said the owner on the other line. As a receptionist for an animal hospital, I was pretty used to these sort of phone calls. However, this was really the first case of Xylitol ingestion our veterinarians were dealing with. As we prepared a room for this emergency, our veterinarians started to consult with poison control for the appropriate course of action.
Not many owners are aware of the dangers of sugarless gum. The culprit is a substance called Xylitol, often used in sugarless candies, breath fresheners, tooth pastes, nicotine gums and some supplements. More and more cases of xylitol toxicity in dogs are taking place each year due to the fact that there are more and more products containing this artificial sweetener on the market.
Symptoms may arise within minutes or may be delayed and present even after 12 hours. For this reason, do not presume that your dog is out of the woods should no symptoms arise right away. Always consult with a veterinarian for directions and what to watch for.
Xylitol triggers in dogs a sudden release of insulin which in turn causes a dog's blood sugar to dangerously drop. When blood sugar drops too low (hpoglycemia) symptoms of shock and liver failure may arise. Symptoms suggesting xylitol intoxication are as follows:
Time is of the essence since your veterinary may give you instructions on how to induce vomiting if the ingestion happened within two hours and your dog is asymptomatic. Always keep 3% hydrogen peroxide and activate charcoal handy for emergencies as these. Your dog may need to be given fluids along with intravenous dextrose in order to raise the blood sugar. Liver enzymes must be carefully monitored along with blood glucose. Dogs are often hospitalized so the blood glucose can be monitored every two hours for at least 12 hours until the values return to normal.
According to the ASPCA, it may take 2-3 sticks of gum containing xylitol to cause toxicity in a 20 pound dog. It is a good practice, therefore, to always keep the ASPCA's poison control phone number handy for ingestions of toxins and poisons. They will give you instructions and a case number for follow ups with your veterinarian. A $60 charge is applied to your credit card for a consultation. They are open 24/7 365 days a year. They can be reached toll free at 888-426-4435.
Play it safe with your dog. Keep sugarless candies and gums out of reach. An open purse or a night stand are areas easy to reach for any inquisitive dog. Store them safely away as you would keep cabinets locked for toddlers. Better be safe than sorry.