Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT
When Halloween rolls around, informed pet owners know to keep chocolate far from the reach of inquiring muzzles. Less commonly understood, however, are the dangers associated with different forms of chocolate, or the many other poisonous foods that may be lurking, disguised as common human treats!
While the size, weight, and individual sensitivity of your dog or cat will determine exactly how they react to chocolate consumption, the formula of the confection is also important. Milk chocolate, while still unsafe, has a lower concentration of the toxic substance, theobromine. Dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate are definitely to be avoided, with unsweetened baker’s chocolate posing the greatest risk. If Fluffy manages to get her paws on chocolate this Halloween, contact your vet: The more information you can provide about the quantity and type of chocolate immediately after it is consumed, the better.
Hosting a healthy Halloween? Remember that the pits and seeds of many fruits contain chemicals that can lead to cyanide poisoning, and should not be shared with Rover—No matter how much he begs! Similarly, nuts such as walnuts and macadamia nuts should never be included in a dog’s diet and can produce symptoms such as an elevated heart rate and the inability to stand. Even those little boxes of raisins (and their parent, the grape!) that little goblins sometimes acquire on Halloween, are not appropriate for feline or canine consumption. Human-safe, sugar-free gums and candies are also spooky snacks: The artificial sweetener, Xylitol, has recently been identified as a toxin to pets. And finally, after every boy and ghoul has devoured their sweet treats, be sure the wrappers are safely disposed of. Swallowing indigestible plastic bags or foils can lead to damage or obstruction in an animal’s intestinal tract.
Keep in mind that a dog or cat’s body may react to common ‘people foods’ much differently than a human body would, and the above list is not exhaustive. Always do your research and consult your vet before allowing Fido to feast on any food outside his balanced diet. The American Humane Society Poison Control Center contains up to date information on toxic substances and their hotline is literally a lifesaver in a crisis. Enjoy your treats and Happy Howl-oween!