Forget about witches and zombies; a seemingly innocuous bag of candy can be one of the scariest things that enters a dog owner’s home on Halloween. Calls to the Pet Poison Hotline increase twelve percent during the week of Halloween, making it the center’s busiest time of the year. We all know that chocolate can be deadly to dogs and other ingredients in candy – such as high amounts of sugar and fat – can also cause severe issues for our pup’s system. If a candy is sugar free, it may contain Xylitol which is extremely toxic and deadly to dogs, even in small amounts.
So what do you do if you find Fido with crinkled, half chewed chocolate wrappers strewn in his wake?
1. Determine what type and how much candy your dog consumed
This may seem like a difficult task (given all of the torn up wrappers) but it can help determine what care your dog should get. Different chocolates have different levels of theobromine, the chemical in chocolate that is toxic to dogs.
Baking chocolate is the worst for dogs, clocking in at roughly 450 milligrams per ounce, followed by Dark chocolate at 160mg/oz; Milk chocolate at 64mg/oz; and white chocolate at 1mg/oz. If your dog consumed close to or more than 20mg of theobromine per pound of body weight, they are in the poison danger zone. The equation looks like this:
(Amount of Chocolate x Amount of Theobromine For Type of Chocolate)/Weight of Dog = Toxicity Level
So for example, a 30 pound dog who eats 8 ounces of milk chocolate:
8oz x 64mg/oz = 512. 512mg/30lb= 17.1mg/lb (a dangerously close level to toxicity)
If you have calculated that your dog is close to this level, get him to the emergency vet as soon as possible. If your dog is on the lower end, say ten and under, keep a close eye on him for further symptoms. Even if he just consumes a little bit of chocolate, contact your vet to make sure you are taking the correct steps for your particular dog given his needs.
2. Speaking of symptoms…know what they are
Not to add more spook to this story, but Fido may eat some chocolate or other candies out of your sight and you may not be able to calculate his toxicity level. Knowing the symptoms and signs of chocolate or other poisoning in your dog will help you and your vet determine what the best course of action is. Signs of chocolate ingestion and possibly toxicity include vomiting, panting, diarrhea, agitation, increased thirst, and in severe cases, seizures.
3. Just because they didn’t eat chocolate doesn’t mean your dog is in the clear
Dogs are indiscriminate when it comes to what type of candy they want to get their noses into. Large binge-eating sessions of foods high in fat and sugar can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. This is an incredibly painful experience for your pup and can lead to even more complications, such as kidney failure or other organ damage. Unfortunately, the more severe symptoms of pancreatitis may not show for 2 to 4 days after the candy binge. Keep your eyes peeled for abdominal pain that comes along with a gentle belly rub, vomiting, diarrhea, and a severely decreased appetite if you think Fido has gotten into something super sugary and contact your vet.
4. The best measure is preventative
It may be terrifying to think that a little bit of candy can do this much damage to your beloved dog, but it is reassuring that most of the times, this can be avoided. If you are handing out Halloween candy, keep the bowl up in a high spot where your pup cannot reach it or knock it down. If you have children who are trick or treating, be sure to explain to them the seriousness of not giving your dog any candy and keeping it out of his reach. Also keep your trash on lock so he cannot dig into a bunch of wrappers, which can also cause severe indigestion. On days with high candy traffic, be sure to give your pup lots of exercise and a nice meal so he will be content instead of curious, sniffing around for some eats. Prevention is key.
As with any dog medical question or potential emergency, be sure to contact your vet with any pet specific questions you may have. Look up the nearest emergency vet in your area and have their number on hand, not only for candy overindulgence, but for any other emergencies that could possibly emerge in the future.
Let us know in the comments if your pup has ever gotten into holiday candy and what you did to treat them. Also, read about other ways to keep your pup safe on Halloween.