Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poppa’s Orbit(-al) Adventure

by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD

A patient suffering from one of the fastest growing canine toxicities presented with the need for rapid detoxification. No, the dog did not overdose on medical marijuana baked goods (not an uncommon, inappropriately consumed treat in West Hollywood); he snuck into his mom’s purse and found her half-full pack of Wrigley’s Orbit Strawberry Mint sugar free chewing gum.

Poppa is a very sweet Chihuahua with a reputation for dietary indiscretions. 

According to his mother, Poppa and his feline companion, Pumpkin, conspire in these incidences. Evidently, the Pumpkin acts as Poppa’s enabler by knocking items off of the countertop or creating a scenario where access to forbidden consumables is more easily permitted.

Pumpkin reportedly aided Poppa’s ingestion of the Orbit gum from his mother’s pocketbook.

I more commonly see dogs ingest gum encased on a paper wrapper than that in a sealed blister pack.

Orbit gum produces an appealing scent that permeates the paper wrapper containing each piece. 

Test it yourself, as there is no such detectable smell from gum where each piece is “blister wrapped” like Trident White. The strong aroma emanating from Orbit gum prompts a dog, like Poppa, to commit the act of inappropriate ingestion.

In my clinical practice I often face situations where an owner is unaware that a substance having a potentially toxic effect has been consumed by their pet.

A variety of manufactured and natural substances can cause toxicity to multiple body systems. 

The Xylitol (sugar alcohol which acts as a sugar substitute) in sugar free gum only needs to be consumed in small quantities to cause hypoglycemia (reduced blood sugar), liver damage, and diarrhea.

A dog of Poppa’s size will suffer toxic effects from consuming only a few pieces of gum. 

An estimated 7 pieces of the gum were consumed by Poppa on that fateful day.

A consultation with a board certified veterinary toxicologist at the APSCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) yielded valuable information directing the treating veterinarian (your’s truly) in providing the best treatment for Poppa’s particular condition.

Emesis induction (vomiting) was recommended to initiate the decontamination process. 

Fortunately, Poppa vomited several pieces of gum when given an injection of Apomorphine. Baseline blood testing showed normal blood glucose and liver values.

The hypoglycemic effects of Xylitol typically last for at least 24 hours, so Poppa was started on IV fluids containing dextrose (sugar) to combat the likelihood his blood glucose would drop. Additionally, Poppa received a Sam-E and Milk Thistle supplement to support his liver function.

Thanks to the immediate treatment, besides having transient diarrhea, Poppa suffered no further ill effects of Xylitol toxicity. His follow up blood tests revealed normal liver values and Poppa was discharged from the hospital.

I sympathize with Poppa, as there was no malicious intent on his part to consume the delicious smelling Orbit gum.

Thankfully, Poppa’s very concerned owner immediately brought him to a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment. 

Hopefully, Pumpkin won’t facilitate her canine housemate’s further consumption of inappropriate items.


Dr. Patrick uses acupuncture on his own pet. He completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) basic course (2006) and he is now a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA).

He earned this certification after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (1999) and completed an internship at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C (2000).

Why does he believe so strongly in acupuncture for your pets, especially as a pain management tool? Because combining both Western and Eastern treatments can produce a better outcome for your pets.

Dr. Patrick also works with local Los Angeles rescue organizations to help those pets that have been given a second chance to live healthier lives, and he is currently sharing his pet care knowledge at his Los Angeles Pet Care Examiner column.

Articles by Dr. Patrick
Why Integrative Veterinary Medicine?
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 1)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 2)
Buddha Recovers From Third Degree Burns
Keep Chewing Gum Away From Your Dog! 

Further reading:
Learn From Kelly Osbourne — Keep Your Dog Away From Chewing Gum!
Safe and healthy sweetener for people - but means more pets will die!
Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
Keep Chewing Gum Away From Your Dog! 
Veterinary Q&A: Why is xylitol so dangerous for dogs and cats? 


  1. Thank you for sharing Poppa's story, as we need to spread the news of Xylitol toxicity to pet lovers all over the world!

  2. It's amazing how many people have no idea that a few sticks of gum can kill their pet. I try to make sure I mention the toxicity of Xylitol whenever it's relevant. Also make sure you check the ingredients of everything intended for your pet, too. At least a few years back, there were some pet products that included Xylitol! I would hope they are gone by now, but you can't ever trust companies to keep your pets safe implicitly.

  3. Yes, a whole lot of products contain Xylitol, including some meds!

    What we don't know CAN kill our dogs.