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Keeping Your Dog Safe during Halloween

Trick, Not Treats: Four things to avoid this Halloween

According to Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an animal's body processes food much differently than humans and some foods have chemicals that a dog cannot tolerate. You may know that eating chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat.

But that’s not the only thing.

For instance, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season can cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, chewing gum, some peanut butters, and baked goods, and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat items containing xylitol. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Check the package label to see if the product contains xylitol and call your vet immediately if it does.


As for eating chocolate, some pets develop severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, and death. As a rule, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa which is what is poisonous. So while chocolate as no cocoa (surprise, it’s not really chocolate), dark chocolate has the most. As with xylitol, if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.


And keep your pets away from alcohol, which can cause serious problems. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, and shaking. In severe cases, coma and death from respiratory failure (lungs stop functioning) can occur.


Food and Snack Bags

Pets can smell the food inside trash or abandoned bag of food or snacks. They are sometimes curious about the smell and sound and will poke their heads in. Fall sports are upon us and end of game snacks are everywhere. Oftentimes, kids can leave the bags on the counter, floor or outside.

A survey by the American Veterenarian Medical Association from 2014 to 2018 found more than 1,300 pet owners said their pets suffocated due to a bag.

That's hundreds of pets a year.

"More than a quarter of respondents said the bags had been in or near the garbage or recycling. Twenty-two percent were on a coffee or side table, 13% on the counter, 6% outside, 6% on the kitchen or dining table and 25% in other locations.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents were at home when their pet suffocated.

Food bags, especially the mylar-type potato chip, cereal, and snack bags, can be dangerous for your pets and dogs, especially, may sniff them out. These bags are thin enough that if a dog puts his head far enough into one and breathes in, the bag can wrap around his nose and mouth, suffocating him. Make sure that snack bags are closed and put away in a cabinet or, if empty, tossed into a trash bin that your pets can't get into.


If your dog does eat something that could be harmful, know that you can call the Animal Poison Hotline. Keep this number available if you own a pet. (A fee is usually charged for this service.)

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A consultation fee may apply.

Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe From Holiday Hazards (December, 2020). Federal Drug Administration.

Good Dog, Bad Food: Foods for People That Are Bad for Your Dog (June, 2021). Federal Drug Administration.

Dogs are dying face-first in snack bags: What pet owners need to know

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