Halloween is an excellent time of year for tricks and treats but is also potentially dangerous for our pets. Many emergency clinics and poison control centers report that Halloween is one of their busiest times of the year. Keeping your pet safe this Halloween can be simple.

Keep candy bowls and bags hidden away. Remember this not only during trick or treat time, but also the days before and after. Curious pets can find candy bags easily. It only takes a minute unsupervised for a dog or cat to get into a lot of trouble.

  • Chocolate is one of the most common exposures in our dogs, although some cats will try apiece. The critical thing to remember is that the darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it is to our pets. A small amount of milk chocolate may not cause an issue in a large Labrador but could show signs in a tiny Chihuahua. Any ingestion of a dark bakers chocolate should be considered an emergency. White chocolate does not generally cause any toxic issues. The ingredient in chocolate that causes problems is a methylxanthine. It acts similarly to caffeine.
    • The most common signs include: restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate and blood pressure
    • More advanced symptoms can include: tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythm, fever, collapse, and even death
  • Raisins (grapes) can be found in some candies and are not healthy for dogs. It is unclear how they affect cats. Although some dogs can ingest a small amount with no clinical signs, there is considerable variation. The symptoms we see do not appear to be dose-dependent. As raisins are dehydrated, they seem to be more toxic than grapes. Because of the potentially deadly effects, they should always be avoided in pets altogether.
    • The most common signs include: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, abnormal drinking/urination
    • More advanced symptoms can consist of: acute kidney failure. This is most often seen 1-3 days after ingestion.
  • Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is in some candies, gums, and food. It is primarily an issue for dogs.
    • The first signs seen are associated with critically low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and include lethargy, collapse, tremors, and seizures. Occasionally vomiting will be seen. This requires medical intervention immediately to prevent possible coma and death.
    • With significant ingestion, the pets can be recovering from the low blood sugar and have secondary issues with the liver. The signs noted may include a yellow color to the skin (jaundice), lethargy, and vomiting.
  • Wrappers themselves can cause issues, especially in small dogs and cats. They can cause vomiting and diarrhea or even an intestinal blockage that may require surgery.
  • Sticks from lollipops can also irritate or get lodged in the intestinal tract.

Glow sticks and jewelry are rarely toxic but can irritate the mouth along with extreme salivation. Cats are more likely to investigate these fun items and try a quick taste.

  • What do you do if you think your pet may have ingested something toxic?
    • Call your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic right away. They will likely talk to you about having your pet come in to induce vomiting and start possible decontamination treatment. Treatment will vary depending upon the exposure and the individual pet’s clinical signs.
    • Pet Poison Centers can also be helpful. There is a fee associated with these services.

Open doors can be dangerous

  • Many pets are used to us coming and going through the door every day, but when those Trick or Treaters come knocking, the door may be open longer than usual. It is effortless for a pet to sneak out with a group of kids. Be sure to keep your pet safely on a leash, in another room or crate to keep them safe.
  • Be sure your pet has an ID tag on before opening a door.
  • If your pet has anxiety, make sure they are in a safe, secure place away from the hustle and bustle of the ghosts and goblins.

Keep your pets inside

  • Well-meaning kids may share candy that they should not.
  • Pranksters can play mean tricks on dogs or cats. Black cats, specifically, should be kept indoors.
  • Even outdoor pets should be brought indoors for their protection.

Costumes and Masks can be scary or even dangerous. Not all dogs and cats are used to seeing people dressed in costumes with hats and masks. This can be a very frightening thing. Costumes can also have small pieces that can be ingested, causing intestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. Unless your pet is used to wearing clothing, it is best to leave them costume free.

Avoid the use of candles to limit possible burns and fires.

Secure any cords to decrease chewing or getting tangled.

There are safe ways to involve your pets in Halloween. Consider a favorite treat or new toy to help them stay occupied and happy. Here is wishing everyone a Happy and Safe Halloween this year. May the treats be plenty, and the tricks be fun.


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