Trick or Treat: Halloween and Your Pets

Pets Beware on Halloween!

Halloween is coming, and lots of humans, little and big, are gearing up for getting some of their favorite treats. Our pets love treats, too, but a human treat can often be more of a trick for pets. This October, PugetPets reminds everyone that some human foods can be harmful to dogs and cats.

Leave It!

Chocolate. Most pet guardians know that chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats, and chocolate probably presents the greatest danger to pets during Halloween. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic. If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, he or she should be monitored carefully. Several online chocolate toxicity meters are available, which will help you determine whether your dog needs veterinary care following consumption of this tricky substance. A cat who has ingested chocolate should be watched carefully for visible symptoms of chocolate poisoning, which include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing and increased body temperature. Seek immediate veterinary care if you observe any of these symptoms in a cat or dog suspected of having eaten chocolate.

Nuts. Some nuts are okay for pets to eat in small quantities, including peanuts, almonds and cashews. Cats should eat only meat. So, although nuts are not beneficial to cats, they are not toxic to them either. Dogs can benefit from some non-carnivorous foods and they often enjoy nuts and nut butters. If you give your dog nuts, make sure they are unsalted, and of course, do not give them chocolate-covered nuts. Never over-feed nuts to dogs, as this can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Some nuts are absolutely off-limits to your dog or cat. Walnuts cause stomach upset and diarrhea in all carnivorous pets and should be avoided. Never allow your dog to eat macadamia nuts. These nuts are highly toxic to dogs, causing vomiting, weakness, fever, muscle tremors and depression. Dogs are the only animal known to have such a reaction to macadamias, and it is still not known why. Seek medical care for your dog right away if he or she has eaten macadamia nuts.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners. The bottom line about Halloween candy is that your pets should never be fed SUGAR (yes, you should check the label on that jar of peanut butter). Their bodies metabolize sugar, but at a higher rate than humans’. This means that all of the same things happen to pets from eating sugar that happen to us, but they happen faster. From hyperactivity and depression to obesity and diabetes, the effects of sugar on pets can be severe. Cats, unlike dogs, cannot taste sweet, so they are far less likely than dogs to try sugary treats, but we all know the old saying about curiosity! While they aren’t attracted by sweet tastes, cats may still be tempted by the fat content of some sugary foods, so guardians should also take care to prevent cats from getting sugar in their diet. “Sugar-free” can also present dangers. In particular, pet guardians need to beware of sugar-free candies. Many sugar-free candies contain a sweetener called xylitol. Xylitol is fine for humans, but is highly toxic to pets. It can cause your pet’s blood sugar to drop and can also cause liver failure. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy and coordination problems. Eventually, your dog or cat may have seizures. Keep xylitol-containing sugar-free candies, gum and baked goods away from pets at all times.

Adult treats. Kids aren’t the only ones who love Halloween, so if an adult party is in your plans and pets will be invited, remember that alcohol and cannabis are harmful to pets’ small bodies and fast metabolisms. Resist the urge to let them partake of these adult (and human) “social lubricants.” Pets don’t need them to have a good time.

No Tricks, Please!

To keep Halloween from being scary—in a bad way—for you and your pets, make sure to keep your candy bowls and bags of candy away from dogs and cats. Let children in your household know that human treats are bad for pets (no matter how much they may seem to want them). Consider keeping some dog and/or cat treats handy for kids to give pets as an alternative to sharing candy with their furry friends. And take care that party guests give only love and pet-appropriate “cookies” to your animals. If you observe any serious symptoms in your pets that could indicate poisoning, call your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately. PugetPets wishes everyone a safe, fun and festive Halloween!