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Did you know that Feb. 15 is National Gumdrop Day? While you may be wondering what gumdrops and toxicology have in common, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center toxicologists warn that gumdrops are not as innocent as they may look.

With the ingestion of gumdrops (or any candy high in sugar) pancreatitis, vomiting and diarrhea are likely going to come to mind first; but remember that the dose makes the poison, and the sugar in gumdrops can be much more problematic.

What Sugar Does in a Dog’s Stomach

Sugar is a molecule that is osmotically active—meaning that if a high sugar solution is added to one side of a semi permeable membrane with just water on the other side, the water is going to shift in an attempt to equalize the two compartments.

So when a dog ingests a large amount of sugar, an accumulation of water can follow. If this overwhelms the dog’s ability to drink enough water—or particularly if he is vomiting—it can lead to abnormal electrolytes, particularly sodium.

This is also the reason why callers to the APCC hotline may be advised not to give activated charcoal. Like the sugar in chocolate, activated charcoal can be osmotically active, so both together may create the perfect scenario for hypernatremia to occur.