Imagine you are taking your dog for a walk and look down to see them chewing on some gum from the ground. Your initial reaction might be “gross!” but you go about your walk. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. If that gum happens to be sugar-free, then your dog is in real trouble. Sugar-free gum contains xylitol, a substance that is quite toxic to dogs. 

Why Is Sugar-Free Gum Dangerous to Dogs? 

Most sugar-free gums contain a sugar alternative called xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in a variety of goods and products such as candy, diabetic snacks, baked goods, sugar-free gum, human toothpaste, and more. As healthy alternatives are becoming more commonplace, xylitol is being used in more products, so the risk of your dog consuming it is increasing. 

Xylitol is rapidly absorbed after it is ingested; it imitates a natural sugar intake, so the pancreas secretes insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. This leads to a massive drop in blood sugar, causing hypoglycaemia, which can cause seizures. After ingestion, the dog will start to feel nauseous and dizzy. Vomiting can occur and they may have trouble walking. If a large amount is ingested, it might also lead to liver failure. If not promptly attended to, they can collapse and even die. 

Clinical Signs of Xylitol Poisoning 

Many of the clinical signs of xylitol poisoning occur as a result of low blood sugar, but other gastrointestinal problems may also arise. Symptoms generally include the following: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Tremors 
  • Seizures 
  • Liver damage 
  • Lethargy 

These symptoms come on quickly and can worsen if your dog does not receive prompt medical care. Call your vet and Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661 if you have any questions or concerns. 

Treatment of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs 

It is important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. They may induce vomiting to eliminate the gum from your dog’s system. IV fluids may be administered to address dehydration. Liver monitoring tests may also accompany treatment to detect any possible liver damage. If you suspect or notice your dog has been chewing on gum, seek a veterinary clinic immediately or call Pet Poison Helpline® for prompt online medical advice.