How to Have a Safe Halloween with Your Pets

Posted on October 17, 2022

by Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Posted October 17, 2022

Halloween can be a wonderful time of the year: full of tricks, treats, and candy!  However, this holiday can also be dangerous for our furry family members.  Here are a handful of things to watch out for with this upcoming holiday.

  • Chocolate. Out of all the candy that shows up around Halloween, chocolate is one of the biggest and most common concerns. Dogs are very attracted to the sweet taste/smell of chocolate and will actively seek it out.  We see fewer cats getting into chocolate but they can definitely do so as well.  Methylxanthine (the toxic component of chocolate) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, a dangerously elevated heart rate, seizures, and death.  Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are the most dangerous but even milk chocolate can cause problems.
  • Sugar-Free Candies that include Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar-substitute that is used in some candies, especially sugar-free versions. Gum is the most common culprit, but other candies may contain xylitol as well.  Xylitol will bind to receptors in the body and result in a dangerously low blood sugar in dogs and cats.  This can lead to collapse, seizures, and even death.  If you’re concerned that your pet got into xylitol, they should be seen immediately.   
  • Other Candy. Although not as dangerous as chocolate, the ingestion of even mild to moderate amounts of any candy can cause digestive upset (vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite). Ingestion of larger amounts of high-sugar and high-fat candies can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially lethal infection of the pancreas.  There is also the potential of an obstruction in the intestines secondary to the wrappers and sticks that may be included with the candy.
  • Grapes and Raisins. Some people prefer to hand out healthier snacks at Halloween, including small boxes of raisins. Both grapes and raisins can be very toxic in some dogs.  And even very small amounts (as low as a single grape) can lead to kidney failure in dogs and cats.  Initial symptoms can be vague, and while you may not be overly worried about your pet, early treatment may be able to stop the kidney damage.  Thus, if your pet eats even a single grape or raisin, please contact us immediately. 
  • Glow Sticks or Jewelry. Cats and some dogs love to chew on colorful glow sticks or jewelry.  Thankfully these aren’t life-threatening, but they can cause some painful irritation in the mouth, resulting in intense drooling or foaming at the mouth.

We hope that your entire family has a happy and safe Halloween.  If you have any questions or concerns about your pet, please reach out to us at the clinic.

By Dr. Terri Argotsinger

Dr. Terri graduated from Iowa State University's college of veterinary medicine in 2008 and has been living/practicing in the Des Moines area for the last 13 years. She's been a vet at Ankeny Animal & Avian Clinic since 2017. She has three orange cats at home that love to keep her busy!
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