Specialists Advise: What To Do If Your Pet Eats Halloween Candy
Many families will have an abundance of candy in their homes left over after Halloween. And whether the candy is sitting in a trick-or-treat bucket on a child’s floor or in a bowl on the table, there are more opportunities than usual for pets to access sweets that could be harmful to their health.
Dr Adam Porter, medical director and critical care specialist at Newtown Veterinary Specialists (NVS), says in his experience the rate of pets consuming candy rises around Halloween compared to other times of the year.
“Anecdotally, we see an increase in ingestion in the week or so on either side of Halloween, with pets coming in for ingestion of both candy and leftover wrappers or even parts of costumes,” Porter said.
One of the most popular types of candy given out is chocolate, which is tempting to humans — and dogs. Unfortunately for dogs, eating chocolate can poison them to different degrees depending on what kind they eat and how much.
“The good thing about most candy that children receive on Halloween is that it is primarily composed of milk chocolate, which has very little of the primary toxin — theobromine, and to a lesser extent caffeine— that we are concerned about in toxicities,” Porter said.
“While a large ingestion can cause issues, we are more concerned about resulting stomach upset and diarrhea with [milk] chocolate ingestions. However, dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate contain a much higher concentration of these components and can cause GI signs in addition to more serious side effects, like tremors, seizures, or even coma and death if in a high enough concentration,” he continued.
Another common component of candies and sugar-free gum that is toxic to dogs is xylitol. If a dog consumes xylitol it can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and even liver failure.
Candies that contain raisins can also cause an idiosyncratic toxicity, meaning it is not necessarily dose dependent, and can lead to kidney failure in some dogs. There is also a need to keep an eye out if you have candy or other treats around specifically created for adult use.
“We are seeing more and more ‘candy’ that has CBD or THC additives,” Porter added. “While these would hopefully not find themselves in the hands of children, THC can have a profound effect on our pets in very small doses, so it is imperative to keep any baked goods or other edibles away from pets at all times.”
Who To Call
If someone suspects or witnessed their pet ingest Halloween candy, Porter recommends they “contact the ASPCA Poison Control Helpline [888-426-4435] to determine whether the pet has ingested enough to warrant evaluation by a veterinarian.”
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There may be a consultation fee.
Porter also advises people visit aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control. The site shows basic toxin categories to be aware of as well as possible complications of these toxicities.
If a pet is showing clear clinical signs of being poisoned, such as tremors, hyperexcitability, repeated vomiting, and/or disorientation, they need to be evaluated by a veterinarian.
When medical intervention is needed, treatment can vary from something as simple as inducing vomiting to rid the body of the toxin or hospital monitoring.
“If clinical, chocolate toxicities can require continuous monitoring in the hospital for changes in the heart rate/rhythm and monitoring,” Porter said. “Xylitol and raisin ingestions can lead to more prolonged hospitalization for fluid therapy and other supportive care and can even lead to serious complications that require long-term therapy. THC toxicoses, while initially dramatic, resolve with time but sometimes require in-hospital care while recovering.”
To prevent pets from accessing Halloween candies in the first place, be sure to securely store them away and never leave them unattended.
Newtown Veterinary Specialists is at 52 Church Hill Road and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To contact NVS, call 866-419-4054. For more information, visit newtownvets.com.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.