Kids aren’t the only ones who look forward to Halloween candy. Dogs have been known to sneak a few treats, too, and the results can lead to a pet emergency.
“Most of our significant cases during Halloween are dogs that have gotten into a bag or backpack and ate the contents—sometimes pounds of candy!—and dogs that get onto tables or counters and eat candy from a bowl or bag,” says Dr. Charlotte Flint, a senior consulting veterinarian for the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour poison control hotline.
Candies that contain chocolate can be especially toxic, depending on the type and amount consumed, says Dr. Flint. While white “chocolate” is almost harmless, milk and dark chocolates contain theobromine, a caffeine-like substance that can be dangerous to dogs.
Depending on the amount eaten and the size of your dog, symptoms can range from vomiting and diarrhea to heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
“A few M&Ms are not likely to cause a problem for dogs, but it is safest to check with Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian if a dog gets into a bag of candy and ingests multiple bars or other larger quantities of chocolate,” says Dr. Flint.
One notable exception is chocolate-covered raisins. Raisins are extremely toxic to dogs and have the potential to cause severe kidney damage. If your dog ingests raisins or grapes, an immediate trip to the pet emergency room is always in order.
If the raisins or chocolate were acutely ingested (up to an hour lapse) your veterinarian may ask you to induce vomiting at home prior to bringing the pet in. So calling your veterinarian first is a good idea.