Candy, jack-o-lanterns, candles, costumes, and outings to trick-or-treat are among Halloween festivities. Unfortunately, parts of our celebrations can be scary for pets and hazardous to their health. The Pet Poison Helpline experiences a significant increase in the number of calls during this time of year. Many human treats and decorations are very dangerous for your dog.
Chocolate is high on the list of culprits that cause toxicity in dogs at Halloween. The degree of distress and severity of symptoms varies depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for a dog. Small amounts of any chocolate may cause vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, and seizures while large amounts can be fatal. There is also a risk of pancreatitis.
Sugar free candies and gum that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol are also poisonous to dogs and cats. Xylitol is estimated to be 100 times as toxic as chocolate to dogs, and the number of cases of xylitol poisoning seem to be on the rise. The Pet Poison Helpline recorded about 300 cases of xylitol poisoning in 2009. In 2015, there were over 2,800 cases.
Consumption of xylitol causes a rapid release of insulin in dogs and cats that results in a sudden and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms usually develop within 15-30 minutes and include vomiting, weakness, difficulty standing or walking, depression, and tremors. In severe cases, the dog may develop seizures and liver failure. Untreated, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening.
Ingestion of toxic candy and gum is only part of the problem. Most dogs do not take time to unwrap treats before gobbling them. Foil and cellophane wrappers can result in gastrointestinal irritation and bowel obstruction. The condition requires veterinary care that may include surgery to remove an obstruction.
Single serving boxes of raisins are becoming a popular healthy treat to hand out to beggars when they knock on the door. Raisins are healthy for humans, but they can be extremely toxic to pets. Ingestion of grapes and raisins by a pet is a true emergency that can result in renal failure.
Poisonous treats aren’t the only hazard your pet might face at Halloween. Real and battery powered candles used to light jack-o-lanterns can be dangerous. If your pet topples a carved pumpkin with a real candle, he can be singed, receive a serious burn, or cause a fire. Ingested batteries from flameless candles or flashlights can cause corrosive injury to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. A trip to the veterinarian is in order.
Dressing pets in costumes has become popular with some folks. Care should be taken to make sure the pet can breathe easily, see clearly, and that his movement is not restricted. Dogs are sometimes decorated with glow necklaces on Halloween night. The jewelry can become an interesting chew toy for your pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association says the liquid in the glow toys is not likely toxic, but it tastes really bad and causes pets to salivate excessively and act strangely.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten a toxic or harmful substance contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately. Pet Poison Helpline is an animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners and veterinary professionals. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for those who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. Have your credit card handy. There is a $49 per incident fee that covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case.
Enjoy your Halloween, but keep your pets safe from human treats and decorations that may be dangerous for them.