Why chewing gum is bad for your dog – xylitol poisoning

Feeding your dog chewing gum may not be a regular indulgence but every year dogs are poisoned by inadvertently ingesting a sweetener called xylitol that is in many ‘sugar-free’ products. One of the most common sources of accidental poisoning is chewing gum but xylitol is also found in ‘sugar-free’ sweets, mints and even some brands of peanut butter. Recently Starburst launched a new range of gums containing a high concentration of xylitol. 

When xylitol is ingested, the dog’s body thinks it is getting a ‘sugar hit’ and starts producing the hormone insulin to process the sugar. However as insulin only works on actual glucose the body’s real sugar supplies get rapidly depleted and the dogs can go into a hypoglycaemic (low sugar) crisis. This can results in seizures, vomiting, loss of consciousness and liver failure. 

Symptoms can occur within hours of ingestion or up to 12 hours in some cases. Treatment usually consists of a glucose drip until the symptoms have passed although more severe cases may require sedation or anti-seizure medication. Deaths have sadly been known to occur after ingestion of xylitol containing products.   

Owners often smuggle tablets or medications into dogs in peanut butter or mix dog treats with peanut butter and pack them into ‘kongs’ as a way to give a dog a longer lasting treat. The vast majority of peanut butters are safe but look out for ‘sugar-free’ versions which could contain xylitol as a sweetener. 

Most cases of xylitol poisoning are accidental so make sure you keep sweets or chewing gums containing xylitol well out of your dog’s reach.