JENSEN: Halloween Pet Safety


This Halloween, make sure your only scare is the costume you wear. With an abundant amount of candy, chocolate, and other tasty treats in many households this time of year, it is the perfect opportunity for your pets to get a taste of many dangerous and potentially life-threatening sweets.

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Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is becoming increasingly more common in baked goods. Although not dangerous to people, if ingested by your cat or dog, it causes blood sugar to drop to potentially life-threatening levels. At higher doses, it can also cause liver failure.  Some signs to watch for are lethargy, weakness, collapse, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.  High-risk foods are diabetic snacks, gum, mints and candies. Also be sure to check your peanut butter—some brands are starting to include xylitol in the ingredients! 

Chocolate comes in many different shapes and sizes, and the dangers to your pet can vary significantly depending what they accidentally eat. Of all forms of chocolate, white chocolate is the safest as it does not contain cocoa powder. Dark chocolate is the most hazardous due to its high cocoa powder content, and can be deadly in small quantities. Call your vet if you have witnessed your pet eating any dark chocolate, as it is important to initiate treatment before severe clinical signs are seen.  Signs range from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and potentially death.

Raisins are a potentially healthy Halloween treat, but require extreme caution to ensure your pet does not eat them. Small boxes of raisins, or chocolate-coated raisins alike are extremely poisonous, and can cause kidney failure with ingestion of very small amounts in some dogs. Mild signs range from vomiting, nausea, and lethargy, and can progress to severe kidney failure in some cases.

Candy wrappers can also pose a risk to your pets. If eaten in sufficient quantities, these wrappers can cause an intestinal obstruction that prevents food from moving through the intestines. Surgery may be required in some cases to remove the obstruction. Signs to watch for are vomiting, lack of defecation, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

Don’t let the dangers to your pet prevent you from enjoying Halloween, but be sure to keep an eye on what they may be getting themselves into. Keep your goodies in a safe place, and if by chance your dog or cat gets into something they aren’t supposed to, the best chance for recovery is to contact your veterinarian before they are showing any clinical signs. Be on the safe side—leave the spookiness to the ghosts and goblins that come trick-or-treating at your door!

Dr. Corinna Jensen was born and raised in the Fort St. John Community and discovered her passion for veterinary medicine at an early age. In June 2015 she completed her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from The Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

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