Don't Chew on This: A Warning About Gum and Dogs

 |  May 5th 2011  |   1 Contribution


With the weather slowly but surely heating up, it's time for a warning about chewing gum and dogs.

People'sunfortunate habit of tossing chewed gum on the street (instead of in trash cans) is less of a hazard in winter, when cold temperatures solidify the gum wads. But the other day, it was unusually hot here in New York City. And hot weather means molten gum all over the sidewalks. No sooner did I step out of my buildingwith my dog Cupcake, than I noticed her lifting her left forepaw. Behind her in the gutter was a glob of green gum. Obviously, she'd stepped in it.

Sure enough, a quick inspection revealed that her paw-pad was covered in gooey, green gum.

Happily, we were right outside my building, so I was able to scrape off some of the offending green goo (and pick up most of theremaining green gooin the gutter, so it wouldn't stick to another dog) before carrying Cupcake inside to finish the job of gum removal.Once indoors,I went to work; the gumcame off quickly and easily with a dab of coconut oil and a little elbow grease.

The fringe benefit of coconut oil? It's a wonderful skin moisturizer. I applied asmall amounttoCupcake's other three paw-pads, so they'd all be as nice and smooth as the formerly gummy one. Of course, she began licking at all her paws after this, completing her own paw-dicure. But it couldn't hurt her to lick at coconut oil; in fact, it's very good for dogs. As discussed here, coconut oil boosts brain health in humans and canines (make sure it's organic, virgin coconut oil).

Gum, however,is a very different story. It's much more than an annoyingly sticky substance, so it's important to remove all trace of it before Spothas a chance toingest it. Sugar-free gum - the kind most people chew - contains Xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. Dogs instinctively want to start licking and chewing at whatever's bothering their paw-pads, which means they'd ingest Xylitol as they tried to removethe gumwith their teeth and tongue.

A sugar alcohol used in the manufacture of candy and chewing gum, Xylitol is also found in oral health products, including toothpaste - which is why it's important to brush dogs' teeth only with toothpaste made for K9s.

Xylitol is safe for human consumption - in fact,it's usedin baking as a sugar substitute- but is extremely hazardous to dogs. When ingested, the consequences are swift:A dangerous surge of insulin and fatal liver damage. The symptoms, which can develop within 30 minutes, include weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures.

If you suspect your dog haseaten sugarless gum or any item containing Xylitol, call your vet without delay or proceed to the emergency animal hospital. And if you chew gum yourself, or use Xylitol for baking, take care to storethe stuffwhere Spot can't reach it, and don't givedogs a bite of any pastrycontaining Xylitol.

Have you had a scaryexperience with dogs and gum? Please share your story in the comments.

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