- Medication type: Antacid
- Form: Tablet
- Prescription required? No
- FDA approved? No
- Brand names: Tums
- Common names: calcium carbonate
Tums are a common over-the-counter treatment for digestive issues in humans. They were invented in 1928 by a pharmacist named James Howe. He created Tums to treat his wife’s indigestion and it worked! In 1930, Tums were introduced to the public and became one of the world’s favorite treatments for heartburn.
If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach, you might be wondering: can dogs have Tums?
Here, we’ll explore whether calcium carbonate, the active ingredient in Tums, is safe for dogs, whether Tums can be used to treat indigestion in dogs, and more.
What Are Tums?
The primary ingredient found in Tums is calcium carbonate, a naturally mined material that is found all over the planet. Calcium carbonate is found in chalk, marble, and limestone. Calcium carbonate is also found in baking powder and some toothpastes.
The primary medical use for calcium carbonate is for helping relieve occasional heartburn, acid reflux, upset stomach, and ingestion in humans. While calcium carbonate is primarily used as an antacid, it can also be used to prevent or treat osteoporosis in humans.
Acid reflux is a condition that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, and it is a very common cause of heartburn symptoms in humans. Heartburn occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach touch the lining of your esophagus and cause pain.
Calcium carbonate, when chewed and swallowed, quickly neutralizes esophageal acid, relieving the symptoms associated with heartburn.
Can I Give My Dog Tums?
The short answer is yes, you can give your dog Tums. But the more important question is: should you?
There are very few negative side effects seen in dogs that are given appropriate amounts of calcium carbonate on a short-term basis. However, elevated blood calcium levels and other mineral imbalances are possible if a dog is given too much calcium carbonate or if they are given it over a long time period.
The biggest problem is that the calcium carbonate found in Tums can decrease absorption (and therefore effectiveness) of other medications. Tums can interfere or negatively interact with certain antibiotics, antacids, and iron supplements, so if your dog is on any other medications, consult with your veterinarian before giving Tums.
You may also want to ask your vet if there are alternatives to Tums you should consider. Many veterinarians recommend other medications designed to reduce acid, combat heartburn, and prevent or treat ulcers, such as:
- Cimetidine, a generic form of the brand-name medication Tagamet
- Famotidine, a generic form of the brand-name medication Pepcid
- Omeprazole, a generic form of the brand-name medication Prilosec
- Sucralfate, a generic form of the brand-name medication Carafate
However, like Tums, these are all medications formulated for people. So it’s essential to consult with your vet before you administer these or any other human over-the-counter medications to your dog.
Can Tums Help Dogs?
Calcium carbonate is prescribed to dogs for a couple of different medical conditions, including:
Low calcium. Dogs with low blood calcium levels, which can occur in pregnant or lactating dogs or dogs with low-functioning parathyroid glands
Kidney disease. Kidney disease in dogs can cause blood phosphate levels to be too high. Calcium carbonate binds phosphate in the intestines, preventing it from being absorbed, and lowering the level of phosphorus in the blood.
Can Tums Be Toxic to Dogs?
Dogs like the taste of Tums, and it is possible for them to eat too many if they get into a bottle of Tums. If your dog eats more Tums than he should, call your local veterinarian, after-hours emergency clinic, or the Pet Poison Hotline immediately for advice.
In most cases, eating too many Tums will likely not be lethal, but can cause vomiting, electrolyte imbalances, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
Additional signs of Tums toxicity in dogs can include drooling, tremors, difficulty breathing, acting drunk or uncoordinated, or collapse.
Precautions When Giving Tums to Dogs
While Tums can be used on a short-term basis to help a dog with an upset stomach or for the above-mentioned medical conditions, they should not be used on a long-term basis unless under the supervision of a veterinarian. There are also certain precautions to take when giving your dog Tums:
Read the label. Tums are created with humans in mind, not dogs. Some sugar-free calcium carbonate products contain xylitol, which is very toxic to dogs. Dextrose is a safe sweetening ingredient in Tums, but xylitol is not.
Watch for allergies. Some dogs may have allergies to food dyes in colored Tums. Food dyes are designated with the letters ‘FD&C’ – if you see those on the ingredient list, don’t give them to your dog. It is best to just give white Tums to dogs.
Do not give Tums to puppies. Do not give Tums to young dogs or puppies that are still growing. In large and giant breeds this can take upwards of two years! The calcium carbonate in Tums can alter a growing dog’s blood calcium levels, which can negatively impact a growing skeleton.
Only use Tums on a short-term basis. Do not use Tums in dogs on a long-term basis, as they can imbalance the level of minerals in a dog’s body. At the most, you can give a dog Tums for a day or two, as long as they are otherwise healthy and do not have any other medical conditions or on any other medications.
Talk to your veterinarian. It is best to always consult with a veterinarian before giving your dog Tums.
Giving a dog Tums should not substitute for a veterinary visit – at best, they could be a short-term band-aid to help your dog feel a little better until you can get them seen by a veterinarian. Tums do not provide long-lasting relief from stomach problems in dogs, and giving a dog Tums may mask the symptoms of serious medical conditions that need a veterinarian’s help.
Tums Alternatives: How to Treat Dog Digestive Problems
Signs that your dog is having problems with their stomach and/or intestines include vomiting, diarrhea, low energy, weight loss, and constipation. Since Tums are only moderately effective at controlling symptoms associated with acid reflux or upset stomach in dogs, it is a good idea to consider alternatives to giving your dog Tums.
The following list of ideas may help your dog feel better without giving them Tums:
Add in a nightly snack. If your dog vomits up food first thing in the morning, they could have a sour stomach from waiting too long to eat. Try giving them a small, high-protein snack right before bed.
Withhold food and try a bland diet. If your dog is suddenly ill with mild vomiting and/or diarrhea associated with something they ate, you can try not feeding them (but still give them access to water) for 6-8 hours (except in toy breeds, puppies, or diabetic dogs). Then offer frequent, small meals of bland food – boiled white chicken, lean ground meat, low-fat cottage cheese, and rice or potatoes for several days. Many dogs will recover without incident.
If your dog doesn’t stop vomiting within a day, refuses to eat when you offer food for more than a day, has no improvement in stool quality, or is otherwise acting sick in any way, call your veterinarian.
Talk to your vet about other medications. Ask your veterinarian for acid-reducing medication recommendations, such as proton pump inhibitors or H2-blockers, like cimetidine.
As always, if your dog is struggling with gastrointestinal problems, it is best to talk to your veterinarian. They can get to the bottom of your dog’s problem and recommend treatments that are safe and effective, bringing you peace of mind and relief to your dog.
Editorial image credit: Jenari / Shutterstock.com