Every dog owner knows full well that chocolate is poison, and dogs will eat it anyway, which makes Halloween an extra-challenging time of year. But chocolate is just one of many potentially hazardous candy ingredients. To keep everyone safe, you should know what else to avoid.
First things first: In case of emergency, it’s important to know what poisoning looks like in dogs. Unsurprisingly, vomiting are diarrhea are common symptoms—but so are weakness and ataxia, or a lack of coordination. If you’re short a bag of candy and your dog suddenly looks way clumsier than normal; has difficulty sitting, standing, or walking; or develops tremors, call your vet right away. In an after-hours emergency situation, call an emergency vet in your area or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. Either way, be sure to tell the vet which type (or types) of candy your dog got into so they can respond accordingly.
Artificial sweeteners like xylitol—which is common in sugar-free candy—are bad news for dogs: “Even small amounts of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death,” veterinarians Renee Schmid and Ahna Brutlag explain in a blog post for VCA Hospitals. Seriously, don’t mess around with this stuff. If xylitol-heavy treats will be featured in your home’s Halloween haul, be extra careful about where you store it.
Anything with raisins and macadamia nuts
Nobody’s really sure why raisins and macadamia nuts are so bad for dogs, just that they are. You may already be familiar with grape (and therefore raisin) toxicity, but macadamia nuts are a little less common—and especially dangerous. According to an American Kennel Club blog post, toxicity symptoms can occur after eating just a tenth of an ounce of macadamias per 2 pounds of body weight. That’s about 1 nut per 2 pounds, and it means that 10 nuts is enough to cause serious issues for a 20-pound dog.
Thankfully, with the possible exception of Raisinets, you’re unlikely to encounter either ingredient in Halloween candy—but knowing the risks can’t hurt.
Pure, unadulterated sugar
Yes, we’re talking about candy corn here—but also Starbursts, Jolly Ranchers, caramels, and other straight-up sugar bombs. Sucrose and glucose aren’t inherently poisonous to dogs, but their digestive systems really can’t handle large quantities of either.
If your pup goes ham on a pile of sugary treats, they’re in for a bad time. In mild cases, this could mean a few pukes or light diarrhea, which usually resolve on their own. But as veterinarian Lionel Londoño tells Chewy.com, more severe cases can cause dehydration and other serious symptoms that require a trip to the vet.
Wrappers, hard candies, and other choking hazards
It’s just as important to keep an eye on candy after it’s eaten, namely, the wrappers. We all know that some dogs simply love to eat garbage, especially if it smells like something delicious and forbidden, like candy. A single plastic or waxed paper wrapper is a choking hazard; a whole pile of them is an intestinal blockage (and an expensive emergency vet bill) waiting to happen.
All of this taken together means that small hard candies are among the most dangerous Halloween treats for dogs. They’re a quadruple threat: Their high levels of sucrose and glucose can cause gastrointestinal illness, their wrappers can get stuck in your dog’s intestines and/or throat, and they’re exactly the right size and shape to get lodged in a windpipe—and given that they’re also among the least popular candies out there, you’re likely to have extras sitting around. Keep your dogs safe by storing Halloween candy where only humans can get to it.