Health & Wellness
Heartburn? Stomachache? For people, a quick reach for Tums can bring relief. But what happens when your best friend has digestive issues — can Tums also work for them, and is this common antacid even safe for dogs? Dr. Fotios Bris, DVM, MS, a veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in Brooklyn, New York, tells us whether Tums are safe and effective for pets.
Before we get to treatments, we have to identify the problem. How can you tell when your dog is suffering from an upset stomach?
Signs of gastrointestinal problems in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation (or any other changes in stool consistency or frequency), lack of appetite, weight loss, fatigue or disinterest in usual activities, Dr. Bris says.
There are also symptoms of acid reflux in dogs, including vomiting and regurgitation (with or without coughing), signs of discomfort after eating, excessive saliva production, repeated swallowing, lack of appetite and weight loss, he adds.
Dr. Bris says that having a few mild episodes of stomach upset from time to time is normal for dogs. With your vet’s permission, you can try feeding your dog a bland diet during this time — and if the symptoms resolve themselves within a few days, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if these symptoms last longer, or seem severe, consulting your veterinarian is essential. It’s important to remember several other medical conditions can cause stomach issues, and the only way to get to the root of the problem is to get your dog to your vet.
Tums aren’t safe for dogs.
According to Dr. Bris, some Tums contain the sugar alternative xylitol, which is very toxic for dogs — avoid giving your dog anything containing xylitol.
You should also avoid xylitol-free Tums because they can interfere with other medications your pup is taking and they can cause dangerously high calcium levels in the blood (which is especially harmful to dogs with kidney issues), Dr. Bris says. Plus, perhaps counterintuitively, Tums can even cause your dog to have an upset stomach and diarrhea, he adds.
“For healthy dogs, giving them the occasional xylitol-free Tums is unlikely to be of harm, but it will not have the same effects as in humans,” he cautions.
Tums work in humans because they contain calcium carbonate that neutralizes stomach acid. However, Dr. Bris explains that dogs’ digestion works much more quickly than ours, so any of that neutralizing would be shorter lived.
Based on the potential side effects and risks involved, this fleeting, unguaranteed relief doesn’t seem to be worth giving your dog Tums.
Tums are so temporarily effective for dogs, if they even work at all, and don’t promise to be safe, so really, the dosage should be zero.
“We don’t recommend giving your dog Tums,” Dr. Bris says. “But if you do, you should definitely consult your veterinarian first to get specific advice on their suitability for your dog and the relevant dosage. Smaller dogs will need a much smaller dosage.”
Tums probably aren’t the answer to your dog’s stomach upset. But if you want to discuss the issue with your vet, they’ll know best regarding your dog’s health as well as their size for potential dosage instructions.
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Whether you intentionally give your dog Tums or your pet accidentally got into your Tums supply, there are potential side effects and negative reactions to keep an eye out for.
It’s always best to notify your vet for advice when your dog isn’t feeling well. In most Tums cases, Dr. Bris says that an upset stomach should be as serious as the problem gets, and this should subside in a day or so. With your vet’s guidance, try withholding food (but water is fine) for a few hours and then work it back in with a bland diet like plain boiled rice and chicken for a few days until your pet seems back to normal.
However, if the Tums contain xylitol, your pet suffers from any other medical conditions or if there is any other bad reaction happening in your dog’s body, you could notice signs of toxicity, like drooling, neurological indicators like staggering, stuporous/drunk-like behavior, tremors, difficulties breathing or heart rate changes. Whether it’s just an upset stomach or any one of these symptoms, the best and most necessary course of action is always to contact your vet immediately.
While Tums shouldn’t be given to any dog, Dr. Dris doesn't recommend it for pregnant or nursing pets, either. This is because of that active ingredient, calcium carbonate. It can cause elevated levels of calcium, which may be passed on to the puppies and can negatively impact their bone development.
Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe effective and safe medications for your dog — Dr. Bris doesn’t recommend Tums for vomiting, bloating or acid reflux.
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash