8 min read

Here's Why Your Dog Definitely Shouldn't Eat Halloween Treats

It's not just chocolate that's toxic.

Every October 31, trick-or-treaters return home with pumpkin-shaped baskets overflowing with fun-sized Snickers bars, Runts, Sweetarts and the occasional (and unfortunate) mini package of raisins. But it’s not just kids who can make themselves sick on sweets — Halloween candy can be especially toxic to dogs, explains Dr. Rachel Barrack, a New York City-based veterinarian.

“Never share Halloween candy with your pet,” Barrack tells The Dodo. “What is delicious to us can be very harmful to your cat or dog. Any time your pet ingests something they shouldn’t, contact your veterinarian immediately.” The pile of sweets can be dangerously tempting to the family pet, so it’s important to keep it well out of paw’s reach and avoid problems down the road.

So what Halloween hazards should pet parents be most concerned about? Here are some of the top candies that can cause problems on the most spooky of nights:

Chocolate

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Most pet owners are already well aware that chocolate and dogs just don’t mix (unless we’re talking chocolate labs), but sometimes only a small piece can be cause for concern. Larger dogs can typically ingest more chocolate than smaller breeds without consequence — so a Great Dane may be able to eat a few Hershey’s Kisses without symptoms, while a Chihuahua will suffer immediately. (That still doesn’t mean any dog should do it!)

The type of chocolate can also influence a dog’s reaction. “Chocolate contains methylxanthines (such as caffeine and theobromine), and dogs are much more sensitive to these than people are. Methylxanthines are found in all chocolates to varying degrees. White chocolate contains less than milk chocolate, while milk chocolate contains less than dark or semisweet chocolate,” Barrack says. “Dark and semisweet chocolate have the greatest probability of being harmful to your dog.”  

If your dog manages to get into the candy basket, watch for signs of signs of chocolate toxicity, such as gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), as well as increased heart and respiratory rates, muscle rigidity and, in certain serious cases, seizures, cardiac failure and coma.

No matter the amount of chocolate, it’s a good idea to call your emergency vet or the pet poison helpline immediately, and only attempt to treat or induce vomiting with explicit instructions from a professional.

Candy corn and super sugary treats

Chocolate isn’t the only reason to keep Halloween candy well out of your pet’s reach. Rich, sugary snacks such as candy corn and caramels can cause serious stomach upset in pets.

“Halloween and Thanksgiving are often a time to indulge in rich, fattening foods but it is best not to share these with your pets and instead keep them on their usual diets,” Barrack advises. “These rich foods can result in pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that is manifested by vomiting and diarrhea.”

This potentially fatal condition can take time to develop, so it may be between two and four days before your dog shows symptoms of sneaky candy consumption. Pet owners who notice their dog chowing down on the Hot Tamales should call their vet, and keep an eye out for any behavior out of the usual.

Grapes and raisins (and Raisinets)

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A neighbor may have good intentions handing out grapes or boxes of raisins to trick-or-treaters, but the fruit can be incredibly poisonous to dogs.

It can only take a small amount to produce critical results in pets, so any type of consumption should be treated as poisoning. “If that same sweet tooth leads dogs to a bag of grapes or raisins, the situation can turn dire, and these items can cause kidney failure in dogs,” Barrack explains. Pet owners should watch for symptoms such as lethargy, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and severe kidney failure, and call a vet or poison helpline immediately.

Sugar-free candy

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Chances are, kids are not that excited about finding sugar-free gum among their booty, but dogs will not be so discerning. “Candy with artificial sweetener xylitol can also be toxic to dogs,” Barrack notes. “Signs of xylitol toxicity in dogs include decreased blood pressure, coordination loss and seizures.”

Candy wrappers

It’s not just what’s inside that counts — candy wrappers can also cause serious problems for pets when ingested. If a pup gobbles down the wrapper and all, the pesky plastic or tinfoil packaging can lead to intestinal obstructions, which may require X-rays and surgery to fix, Barrack notes.

To avoid a costly and stressful trip to the vet this fall, it’s best to keep the candy in a safe, secure place where dogs can’t reach it.