According to History.com’s topic page “Halloween”, “One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween,” and “…Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.” While it sounds fantastic for children, it can be deadly for dogs.
Many dog owners are familiar with the danger that chocolate poses for their dog. Chocolate can be fatal, but it is not the only thing you need to be looking out for. Other toxins, such as raisins, sugar-free candy, gum and baked good that contain Xylitol, are also incredibly dangerous. Although they aren’t considered treats, candy wrappers and lollipop sticks still are very dangerous during Halloween.
It’s important as a dog owner to be aware of the dangers, know the signs and symptoms, and educate family members as well. Halloween is supposed to be a time to scare others, not be scared for your dog. Continue through the list for information about some of the more dangerous items for your dog handed out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Chocolate is everywhere on Halloween and it can be deadly in even a small amount. Most dog owners are aware of chocolate toxicity. Dr. Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M., author of “The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook”, explains that caffeine and theobromine are the components in chocolate that are toxic to dogs. All chocolate is dangerous, but because types of chocolate contain different levels of fat, caffeine, and theobromine, the level of toxicity will vary.
· White chocolate and cocoa butter have little to none of these toxins, but if ingested, they can still cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, tremors, heart arrhythmias, or seizures. Brevitz says that a large amount of white chocolate or cocoa butter would need to be ingested to produce heart arrhythmias, or seizures.
· Milk chocolate is second on the list. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, “one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.”
· Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate is the most dangerous, containing 10 times the amount of theobromine and caffeine found in milk chocolate. It takes very little of these chocolates to be dangerous to your dog. Brevitz claims that for a 20-pound dog, a dangerous dose of these chocolates would be only about one square ounce.
If you think your dog may have ingested chocolate, call the vet immediately and try to give them the type or amount. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual and Brevitz, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, tremors, heart arrhythmias, seizure, respiratory failure, coma or death. Symptoms to watch for are vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, restlessness, lethargy, tremors, or seizures.
An excellent resource is available through National Geographic’s website. If you register for free on the website, you can access their interactive Chocolate chart that slides to your dog’s weight and shows how much of each chocolate type would typically need to be consumed to produce specific effects. It is easy, simple to use, and very useful.
Xylitol is a low calorie sugar substitute that is used in a wide variety of products. It is important to bring up on Halloween because Xylitol is the main ingredient in some of the sugar-free gum and candy handed out to trick-or-treaters and can be used in baked goods made for Halloween parties. While it may be just a small percentage of the Halloween treats available, it’s a dangerous product for dogs that not all dog owners are aware of.
In Dr. Eric K. Dunayer’s, M.S., V.M.D., D.A.B.T., D.A.B.V.T. article, “New findings on the effects of xylitol ingestion in dogs”, he explains the particular benefits of Xylitol that made it popular. Two main reasons are that it does not cause the same increase in blood sugar levels for humans that sugar does, and it has cavity fighting properties, making it an excellent substitute for sugar in gum and candy.
For dogs, Xylitol is a different story. Dunayer’s research shows that the initial symptom of dogs that have ingested Xylitol is vomiting, and a rapid and severe drop in their blood sugar, hypoglycemia, can occur in as little as 30-60 minutes. In cases where dogs have ingested Xylitol gum, Dunayer found that hypoglycemia can be delayed for up to 12 hours. Along with hypoglycemia, Xylitol can cause liver failure.
Be mindful to check sugar-free items your children may have brought home for Xylitol, as well as items around your home, such as toothpaste, gum, vitamins, throat lozenges, nasal sprays, mints, and mouthwash.
Symptoms to watch for are vomiting, lethargy, disorientation, seizures, and collapse. Xylitol is in many products and because symptoms can be delayed for a long time, it’s always best to call your veterinarian if you have any inkling your dog has ingested a product containing Xylitol.
Sources: “Foods That Are Hazardous to Dogs” on the ASPCA’s Pet Care Virtual Pet Behaviorist Website
We all know children always favor some treats over others during Halloween. Unfortunately, it’s usually the healthy snacks that are unpopular and get discarded. An infamous healthy treat handed out on Halloween night is the box of raisins. What makes this so scary for dog owners is that raisins are poisonous to dogs. If a trick-or-treater doesn’t want it, it might just get dropped on the ground.
The Merck Veterinary Manual explains that while raisins (including grapes) can cause renal failure in dogs if ingested, they are still unsure of the mechanism that causes the toxicity. The Merck Veterinary Manual indicates that a lethal dose for an 18-pound dog was only four to five grapes.
Although you should always go the safest route and never give your dog raisins and grapes, some dogs seem to have immunity. The Merck Veterinary Manual is uncertain why some dogs can digest raisins and grapes and for other dogs, ingesting them proves to be very sickening or fatal. If your dog has ingested raisins or grapes, immediately call your veterinarian or the local emergency veterinary hospital.
The Merck Veterinary Manual gives a timeline of symptoms you can expect, “Most affected dogs develop vomiting and/or diarrhea within 6-12 hours of ingestion of grapes or raisins.” They also mention other signs are lethargy, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration, excessive thirst, and tremors. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, “… renal failure develops within 24–72 hr of exposure; once anuric renal failure develops, most dogs die or are euthanized.”
Candy wrappers and lollipop sticks
Halloween can leave a trail of candy wrappers littering the streets, waiting to be eaten by household pets. Candy wrappers smell heavenly to your dog. For the wrappers that make it to the trash cans, it’s important they are trash cans dogs cannot get into. Dogs aren’t normally shy about getting dirty.
According to “The Dog’s Sense of Smell”, written by Julio E. Correa, Extension Animal Scientist, Associate Professor, Food and Animal Sciences, at Alabama A&M University, “a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while humans have only 5 million.” What this means for dog owners is that after Halloween, if there is a candy wrapper or a lollipop stick nearby, chances are, your dog will find it before you do.
When dogs try and eat candy wrappers made of cellophane, foil, or plastic, there is the initial danger of choking, intestinal blockage, or a deadly bowel obstruction. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center, x-rays and surgery can be necessary to diagnose and correct a bowel obstruction from candy wrappers.
If you think your dog ingested candy wrappers, call your veterinarian first and ask their opinion. Symptoms to watch for would be vomiting, decreased appetite, straining to defecate or not defecating at all, and lethargy according to “Halloween Dangers to Dogs & Cats”, an article on the Pet Poison Helpline’s website.
Like regular candy wrappers, lollipop sticks pose a huge danger. They can get lodged in a dogs throat, become a choking hazard, or become lodged somewhere in your dog’s intestinal tract causing severe pain and requiring surgery to remove.
While it’s important to note the dangers of candy wrappers and lollipop sticks as refuse items, it’s also important to remind dog owners that dogs don’t take wrappers off candy when before eating it and they don’t just eat the candy portion of a lollipop. All Halloween candy should be stored in a container or cabinet that the dog cannot get into. Make sure your children are also aware of the importance of discarding candy wrappers safely.
For more information and tips on keeping your dog safe during Halloween, check out, “How you can keep Halloween safe and fun for your dog”.