Can Chewing Sugarless Gum Kill Your Dogs?

Can something as harmless as sugarless gum with Xylitol kill your dogs? Yes, says a report from the Food and Drug Administration. Xylitol is a type of sweetener known as sugar alcohol, and is present not only in chewing gum, but in numerous other products for humans. It’s in gum, of course, but also in candies and other foods, and even non-food items such as toothpaste or cough syrup. In dogs, Xylitol can cause a rapid release of insulin from the pancreas, which can trigger a dangerous hypoglycemic attack. Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when blood glucose levels drop dangerously low. The condition can occur as soon as ten minutes after ingestion, but may take nearly 24 hours to show signs. Xylitol is usually considered safe for people because in humans, Xylitol doesn’t cause the rapid release of insulin from the pancreas.

Earliest signs of toxicity include vomiting, lethargy and loss of consciousness, and signs can progress to the point of seizures. A dog who has ingested Xylitol may have weakness, staggering, and even collapse. Liver function panels show increased liver enzymes, indicative of liver failure, usually will begin to be seen within the first few days. The FDA’s own Center for Veterinary Medicine has received numerous reports of dogs being poisoned by Xylitol, says FDA veterinarian Martine Hartogensis. If you think your dog has had sugarless gum or any other product containing Xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal clinic immediately. Even if your dog isn’t showing any unusual signs, be aware that the toxicity can set in later and kill the dog. Sometimes more serious effects of Xylitol might not occur immediately, it’s better to be on the safe side and take your dog in so he can be monitored for any subtle changes. Even slightly prolonged or increased exposure can kill a dog, but a veterinarian might be able to reverse the effects if the dog is treated early after poisoning.

The ASPCA has published a report listing the top people foods that can be toxic to or even kill dogs. The list includes alcohol, chocolate, coffee, citrus, sugarless gum, coconuts, grapes, raisins, milk, nuts, onions, and others that might seem harmless when slipping your dog table scraps. Dog owners should review such lists often to avoid a potential health crisis in their pets. Another common culprit is certain peanut butters that may contain Xylitol. Many people use peanut butter to disguise the taste of medications their dogs require. It’s imperative they first make sure the peanut butter has no traces of Xylitol. Although peanut butter is a frequent treat for many dogs, the majority of events with dogs having Xylitol toxicity occur after accessing sugarless gum. Since dogs have such an extremely powerful sense of smell, their noses often lead them to the owner’s carelessly placed purse containing sugarless gum. Many dogs have been reported to have rooted through a purse or pockets to find gum and proceed to chew it. An act as seemingly innocent as keeping gum in your purse can kill a curious dog.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr in 2015, animal welfare groups have called for products containing Xylitol to be labeled with warnings. It is not clear if the newest reports this week from the FDA will lead to or expedite an across-the-board warning label policy.

Chewing gum can kill dogs
A report by Popular Science says the Pet Poison Hotline received 2900 calls in 2015, which was a sharp increase from 2009, in which they received 300 calls. Studies to determine whether or not Xylitol is potentially equally harmful to cats have been inconclusive, but the FDA speculates that cats are protected anyway by their natural aversion to sweets, the most likely foods to contain the pet-lethal sweetener.

One thing you can do in addition to keeping unsafe products out of reach of your pets is to help is to report any potential cases of Xylitol or other poisonings to the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal. The FDA is able to do more to help when they’re aware of cases of pets’ exposure to toxins through food or medicines. Prompt reporting of such incidences of poisoning can help them respond more quickly and effectively to other cases. They need to know the food or product that was consumed, information about the dog that’s been exposed, and how serious the problem is. They may contact the person filing the report for more information if necessary. Armed with the knowledge that sugarless gum could actually kill a dog, pet owners have the best chance of helping their dog survive when they contact a veterinarian immediately.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]