Trick Or Treat: Dangers for Dogs

Fall is here! The weather is finally cooling down and we can enjoy traditions like pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating. But this time of year can be dangerous for dogs, particularly because many people have candy bowls sitting on tables and in other accessible areas. Puppies are notorious for eating naughty things but even older, well-trained dogs will occasionally find Halloween treats irresistible!

You may have heard that chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Depending on the size of the dog, the type of chocolate and the amount ingested, clinical signs of illness can range from mild to severe. A small amount of chocolate will often cause gastrointestinal upset but larger doses can lead to cardiac toxicity, seizures, and even death. If your dog ingests chocolate or any other known toxin, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435. The treatment plan will vary with each individual case but immediate medical care is often indicated.

In addition to the risk of chocolate, there are other items you might find in your candy bag which can pose a significant risk to pets. Xylitol is a naturally derived sweetener that is now commonly used in chewing gum and other treats as an alternative to sugar. Although ingestion of xylitol is safe for humans, it is very dangerous for dogs and the onset of life-threatening consequences can occur within as little as 10-15 minutes of ingestion. Depending on the dose, a pet’s blood glucose may drop precipitously and the liver can sustain serious damage. Products containing xylitol are often marked “sugar free” or “no sugar added” and although they may be a better alternative to traditional candy for you or your kids, they should never be given to dogs!

Finally, candies containing raisins should also be avoided. In some dogs, even very small amounts of raisins (or grapes) can cause severe gastrointestinal illness followed by acute kidney failure. It is not yet possible to predict which dogs will have this reaction to grapes and raisins, so it is best to avoid them for all dogs.

If you want to dress your pets in silly costumes for Halloween this year, we won’t stop you! But please do your best to keep treats out of reach so that everyone in the family will have a safe and happy holiday! – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa

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