Sugar-Free Chewing Gum Can Poison Dogs

You probably already know that chocolate can be dangerous for canines, but you may not know that sugarless gum and other products that contain the sugar alcohol xylitol can also be harmful for dogs, and even deadly in some cases.

You probably already know that chocolate can be dangerous for canines, but you may not know that sugarless gum and other products that contain the sugar alcohol xylitol can also be harmful for dogs, and even deadly in some cases.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has received several reports of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, many of which pertained to chewing gum.

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products and foods for human use, including sugar-free gums, mints, oral rinses, toothpastes, cough syrups, multivitamins, fish oils, and other supplements. It’s considered a good sugar substitute for diabetics and is commonly used in sugar-free baked goods such as cookies and muffins.

Although these products are safe for humans, they can have devastating effects in your pet.

In both humans and dogs, insulin is released from the pancreas to control blood glucose levels. However, oral absorption of xylitol varies greatly among species.

Xylitol is absorbed slowly in humans, but it’s very rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream of dogs and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This strong release of insulin may result in a dangerous drop in blood glucose, an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of xylitol consumption.

Left untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly become life-threatening. Dogs can also experience liver injury and/or failure after ingesting xylitol, especially at very high xylitol dosages.

Dosages of xylitol ranging from 75 mg/kg to 100 mg/kg (34 mg/lb to 45 mg/lb) have been associated with hypoglycemia in dogs, while dosages above 500 mg/kg (227 mg/lb) may cause severe liver injury or failure in dogs. Unfortunately, the amount of xylitol in gum and other products is highly variable and not always noted on the packaging.

Signs of xylitol poisoning to watch for in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with a sudden decrease in blood glucose, such as lethargy, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Signs of hypoglycemia can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion or may be delayed up to 18 hours.

If you believe your dog has ingested xylitol, go to a veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately for intensive monitoring of blood glucose and liver values, as well as intravenous fluids and dextrose. Depending on your dog’s symptoms, the veterinarian may induce vomiting.

Activated charcoal isn’t an effective treatment as it doesn’t bind well to xylitol and therefore isn’t recommended. Liver-protective drugs like S-adenosylmethionine may be used as needed.

Check the ingredient label of any product you buy, and if it contains xylitol, make sure your dog can’t get to it by keeping it well out of reach.

Dogs with uncomplicated hypoglycemia who receive prompt treatment generally have a good prognosis. Mild increases in liver enzyme activities usually resolve within a few days with supportive care.

Unfortunately, the prognosis won’t likely be good if your dog is unfortunate enough to develop liver failure from xylitol ingestion.