Halloween is a real treat for humans, but not so much for our pets. Did you know that chocolate is toxic to all mammals, but only dogs will eat a potentially fatal amount? The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for a dog, since milk chocolate and white chocolate are diluted with other ingredients.
While chocolate has caffeine, it contains even more theobromine, a chemical that, like caffeine, makes hearts pump faster, dilates blood vessels and gives some of our muscles more energy. Too much can make our hearts pump too quickly and contract uncontrollably. Since dogs process theobromine more slowly than humans, when they eat chocolate, it can build up in their bodies and cause these dangerous reactions.
Chocolate isn’t the only sweet that can be dangerous to dogs. Xylitol, a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free gums and mints, can cause a dog’s pancreas to release insulin. This decreases the blood sugar, which can lead to a coma and even death. Chewing gum with xylitol is hundreds of times more toxic to dogs than chocolate. It’s estimated that thousands of dogs die each year as a result of eating gum with xylitol.
Cat owners, however, can breathe a sigh of relief. Cats do not have sweet taste buds and fortunately, are not attracted to most sweet treats.
Experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center have a few tips for ensuring your pet’s safety this year:
- Lock candy safely away. Kids love to stash candy in their rooms, but a dog’s keen sense of smell will lead them to even the most cleverly hidden treasure.
- Contact a veterinary professional right away if your pet does get into Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol.
- Don’t leave glow sticks lying around. Glow sticks are used to help keep kids safe while they are out trick-or-treating in the dark. Pets, especially cats, think these glow sticks are a lot of fun as well, and the APCC frequently get calls about pets puncturing the sticks. While most of them are non-toxic, they have an extremely bitter taste, and pets who bite into them often race around the house drooling. A little treat or a sip of milk usually gets rid of the bad taste.
A special thanks to our friends at ASPCA for co-writing this blog. For more information, please check out ASPCA’s full list of Halloween safety tips. For human Halloween safety tips, take a peek at these IPC blog posts:
Best “witches” for a fun, safe holiday season! Vickie