By LisaBeth Weber
While the annual tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween is one that children and adults look forward to year-round, it isn’t always safe or fun for everyone. For dogs, the extra candy around the house and the neighborhood can be a hazard to their health.
When Halloween comes around, it’s best to be extra vigilant, for your dog’s sake. Pet nutritionist and proprietor of Ask Ariel Pet Nutrition, Susan Blake Davis, explains that sugar is bad for pets (even “natural” sugars, such as molasses), saying that it can contribute “to health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and even cancer.”
A little planning can go a long way, though. If you want your dog to be part of the festivities, you have to make Halloween safety a priority. “Be sure to have your pet’s favorite treats in the house and readily available,” says Davis.
But sweets that are made for people should be kept well out of reach. Davis says that “Keeping the candy and gum stored in a secure cabinet will ensure that you and your pet have a safe and happy Halloween together!”
Veterinarian Dr. David Gordon of Arch Beach Veterinary Clinic in Laguna Beach, California, says that the bottom line for pet safety is, “Better safe than sorry! It really comes down to [the fact that] anything other than dog food can be a problem for dogs.”
Gordon says to use dry dog food or dog treats as Halloween treats. “The most dangerous Halloween treats [can] come from strangers [who] put unusual objects into the home baked goods,” he says. “You should never eat those yourself or give them to your pets.”
According to Dr. Gordon, toxicities or obstruction of the bowel can ensue from dogs eating candy, so if you think your dog has gotten into the treats and you see symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, pain, abnormal behaviors or anything else that is worrisome, take it seriously and call the vet.
Let’s take a walk through the candy aisle to see which are the most toxic foods for dogs.
Chocolate is probably the most well-known toxic food for dogs. Dr. Gordon explains that chocolate (especially dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate) contains theobromine, which is toxic in high doses and can cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Dr. Bartges adds that it can also cause excitation and seizures. “Another issue may be GI obstruction if they eat a lot, and the paper causes obstruction or possibly either bloat or a twisting of the stomach called gastric dilatation volvulus, which can be life threatening,” says Dr. Bartges.
Raisins and chocolate are a potentially toxic combo for dogs. Raisins can cause renal failure in dogs, and chocolate is a well-known hazard for dogs. If you are looking to provide your pup with a delicious Halloween treat, Davis suggests filling a KONG Classic dog toy with canned food, and then freezing it.
“Vegetables are another healthy option for any pet,” says Davis. “Green beans and carrots make wonderful treats.”
Hard candies present a choking hazard, and they are also full of sugar. If they’re sugar-free, they may contain xylitol, which Davis says can have fast, fatal consequences in dogs, such as a precipitous drop in blood sugar (acute hypoglycemia) and/or liver failure.
Candy corn is a common and easily accessible Halloween treat, especially when it’s out in bowls on low coffee tables within the dog’s reach.
It’s a super sweet candy that is not a sweet experience for dogs, since it contains mostly sugar. Dr. Bartges says that any candy (especially in excess) may result in GI problems such as vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Davis suggests getting treats specifically made for dogs, like Vital Essentials Wild Alaskan Salmon freeze-dried dog treats. You can put these dog treats into a decorative Halloween bag, like the P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You Howl-o-ween pumpkin treat basket, for guests to spoil their pets.
Dogs can choke on lollipop sticks, and these treats are also full of sugar. People will sometimes let their dog lick the lollipop, but that’s just asking for trouble. Dogs don’t need the sugar, and they may grab the whole stick before you can take it away.
Most dogs love peanut butter, so they are naturally attracted to this popular Halloween candy. Of course, the chocolate can make them a dangerous food for dogs if they get into a lot of the treats.
Peanut butter cups may be the most wanted candy for trick-or-treaters, but for dogs, you’re better off finding them a treat of their own. Try the Darford Mega Pumpkin Junior Bone dog treat or some Whole Life Pet Pumpkin Blend dog treats for a dog-safe seasonal treat.