It’s that time of year again, the beginning of the candy season. Whether you bob for apples, trick-or-treat, or simply have a few drinks, the things we have at Halloween can be quite toxic to our pets. Some of our favorite fall treats are okay in small doses, like pumpkin and apples! Pumpkin can be good for your pet’s digestive health and fur, but don’t let them get that jack-o-lantern, which can be collecting bacteria. Fresh, cooked pumpkin, or canned natural pumpkin is best. Fresh apple slices are also good for dogs, but be sure that they do not eat the seeds, which are toxic. Most of the treats we have out at Halloween, however, are incredibly dangerous to our furry friends.
One of the biggest dangers, especially at Halloween, is chocolate. This may seem obvious, but with the immense amounts of treats being exchanged and handed out, be sure to keep chocolate out of reach to your dogs. Trick-or-treaters can drop it outside, kids can stash it throughout the house, and grocery bags waiting for Halloween can be left out. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs, especially dark chocolate. Watch for signs of consumption, including vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, tremors, increased thirst, lethargy, or agitation.
Other candy items (non-chocolate) can be dangerous and unhealthy to pets too, due to high levels of sugar and fat. Symptoms of sugar consumption in pets can be decreased appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, and lethargy, and may not show up for a few days. Even those candies that are sugar-free, like chewing gum (which can cause blockages), contain chemicals such as Xylitol that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver problems in animals. Keep candy away from pets and teach kids to do so as well.
Many well-meaning neighbors hand out raisins or trail mix rather than candy. Raisins can be toxic to both dogs and cats, causing kidney problems even in small amounts. Macadamia nuts are very toxic to dogs as well, and as few as six macadamia can cause large problems. Other trail and snack mixes can be high in salt or sugar as well. Your pet may not have any symptoms before they are severely ill, but watch for decreased appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
For some of us who are a little old to trick-or-treat, Halloween can be a bit of a party holiday, so be sure to keep the booze away from pets. Alcohol can cause the same damage to our pets that it can to us (liver and brain), but it only takes small amounts to harm them. Watch out for vomiting, trouble breathing, and lack of coordination, especially in smaller dogs.
Some of our other “munchies” that are high in salt can also harm dogs and other pets. Salty snacks like chips and pretzels can lead to increased thirst and urination, and cause dehydration. Sodium ion poisoning can also occur, which includes symptoms like vomiting, depression, tremors or seizures, and a fever.
If you suspect your pet has ingested anything that it shouldn’t have, or is ill, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. By keeping our pets away from these harmful foods and snacks this Halloween, we can ensure we all have a good holiday. If you are handing out candy in your neighborhood, consider having some dog biscuits on hand too. For those of us who are going to have excited kids come home with bags full of treats, get your dog a new toy or treats of their own to keep them busy. I really love Blue’s Boo Bars, which are a nice fall treat for dogs, made with pumpkin, carrots, cinnamon, and other safe, natural ingredients. So keep your pets healthy by keeping candy, alcohol and snacks away from them, and provide them their own safe treats. Happy Halloween everyone!
Sources: PetMD, pets.webmd.com, Humane Society of the United States, The Blue Buffalo Co.