Halloween Candy

We all know one of the great treats of Halloween is, well, the treats! But just like their human companions, cats and dogs like goodies too. I’m sure many pet parents have had to fend off a determined dog or cat when they were eating dinner or have had to quickly rush and clean up a spill if they dropped BBQ sauce on the floor – or else Fido was going to clean it up for them. Let’s begin by going through a list of the basic human foods/items in the kitchen toxic and/or unhealthy to animals.

Beware of these items around your furry friend:




Avocado (toxic to birds, rabbits, horses, sheep, donkeys, goats)


Coconut water/coconut oils



Macadamia nuts


Onions (and onion powder used in Goldfish)



Raw or undercooked meat



Cinnamon (particularly in cats)

Salt/salty foods

Xylitol (artificial sweeteners)

Yeast dough


While it’s never okay to let your pet eat candy, there are food products on this list that are particularly deadly, and often found in your child’s Halloween treat bucket.

Chocolate – the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate is metabolized at a slower rate in pets than in humans. The composites of theobromine and caffeine are thus allowed to build up in their system. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in more serious cases, tremors, seizures, heart arrhythmia, irregular heart rate, and internal bleeding.

Xylitol – sometimes disguised as words like wood sugar, birch sugar, or birch bark extract, when ingested, this substance is rapidly absorbed in your pet’s bloodstream and activates the release of insulin in the pancreas. This leads to hypoglycemia which can result in liver failure, seizures, or death. Xylitol toxicity can present as vomiting, lethargy/weakness, trouble with balance/coordination, tremors, depression, yellowing of the skin or mucus membranes. You have to beware of this substance because it may be used in sugar-free candies or certain peanut butter products.

Grapes/raisins – the tartaric acid in this fruit causes excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage, or acute kidney failure. Vomiting is the most common early sign of tartaric acid toxicity and usually occurs within 24 hours of ingestion. Even one little grape or raisin can be fatal depending on the size of the pet. So on Halloween, kids may not like those little raisin boxes, but if they’re discarded, make sure they don’t end up on the ground or in a place your pet or another animal can get to them (and chocolate-covered raisins is just a horrible combination of products to wind up in your pet’s stomach).

Macadamia nuts – their high fat content over-stimulates the pancreas. Pancreatitis presents as abdominal pain, depression, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or weakness in the back legs. Beware of macadamia nut cookies!

Salt – consumption of salt can cause high blood sodium concentration, or, hypernatremia. Signs of salt toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, coma, seizures, lack of coordination, lethargy, tremors, and excessive thirst or urination.

Other items in your child’s Halloween treat bucket to beware of:

Lollipops – your pet can choke on the sticks.

Wrappers – your Halloween candy is often dressed up in colorful foil or cellophane wrappers, but if ingested, this can cause a serious obstruction that may require expensive radiographs to diagnose and even more costly, a surgery to remove. Signs of possible foreign body obstruction include vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, straining to defecate or not defecating at all.

If you know or even suspect your pet ingested something potentially hazardous, please call the ASPCA Poison Control at 888-426-4435!

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