Pets and Halloween Candy Don’t Mix

Halloween is a time for kids to dress up as scary monsters, strong superheroes, and pretty princesses. They parade to different houses and proclaim “Trick or treat!” invariably getting a pillowcase full of sweets before the night is over. This tradition touches everyone’s lives in some way or another, as many adults have their own kind of celebrations involving costumes and spooky music, enjoying a night scaring the neighborhood kids or letting loose with friends.

People recognize much of this as pretend – but our pets are not as fortunate. They may become confused and scared by the noise, costumes, and people. There is also an increased risk of your pets getting ahold of some harmful goodies. Not only do you need to worry about potentially dangerous treats, like homemade snacks that may not be properly made, but also the everyday food items that can make your dog or cat sick, too.

Dogs are more susceptible to dangerous treats than cats are for the simple reason that cats are naturally pickier about what they eat. Anyone who has had cats and dogs can attest to this truth. Cats are a special kind of food snob, whereas dogs are more like garbage disposals, consuming almost anything in their path. With so many extra treats around, it’s important to pay extra attention to what your pet is eating.

Chocolate (Coffee and Caffeine, Too)

Chocolate is bad for animals and can make them sick. Most dog owners are familiar with this one. Did you know it extends to coffee and caffeine, too? A naturally-occurring chemical compound called methylxanthine is found in the cacao plant, which is responsible for the causing your dog or cat’s reaction to chocolate, coffee, and caffeine. Vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, and seizures are all symptoms of consuming chocolate, coffee, or caffeine. Death can occur within 24 hours.

Luckily, all pets and all chocolates are not created equal. For small dogs or cats, eating a few ounces of chocolate may require medical attention. Larger dogs may be able to handle it better, though you should still be careful. As for chocolate, methylxanthine is more prevalent in dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate than milk chocolate or white chocolate, given the higher concentration of cacao.

That said, each pet is different and there isn’t a single set rules. It is best to avoid letting them get chocolate at all.

Raisins, Grapes, and Currants

Every neighborhood has that person that hands out little boxes of raisins. Children may scowl and parents may secretly praise the efforts, but the family pet should definitely be kept away from these treats that are nutritious for humans.

Nobody knows exactly why grapes, raisins, and currants make both dogs and cats sick. Nonetheless, these little fruits can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy within 24 hours of consumption, and they could even lead to kidney failure.

If your little tikes are looking for a way to unload their boxes of raisins, avoid giving them to the pets. Perhaps make cookies with them – or give them to a local food bank instead.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener commonly found in things like candies, gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and even peanut butter.

Xylitol causes insulin release and can result in low blood sugar in animals. Symptoms of low blood sugar are vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, and seizures. It can begin within 30 minutes of consuming a food containing xylitol, though in some cases it may take a couple of days for symptoms to appear. Liver failure can follow if this goes untreated. Pay special attention to items that are reduced fat or low sugar and items that contain artificial sweeteners, as these may contain xylitol.


Though not typically handed out for Trick or Treating, alcohol is a part of many adult Halloween celebrations. Despite funny memes of pets with beer or wine, alcohol can be very dangerous for animals. First, and most importantly, the same buzz that you find invigorating can be terrifying for your best friend, because they won’t understand what’s happening. They think they’re satiating their thirst, when suddenly, they start to lose control.

The disorientation alone is stressful, but it’s made worse by the illness that follows if they drink too much. Not only will your dog or cat experience a lack of coordination, vomiting, and diarrhea, but it can affect their nervous system, breathing, and the acidity of the blood. These things can lead to coma and death if left untreated. Dogs and cats are not built to consume alcohol and cannot tolerate it as humans can. Even a small amount can have disastrous effects.

Other Foods to for Pets to Avoid

While these may not typically be part of a standard Halloween treat, other foods that pets should not consume include:

  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocados
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic, onion and chives

Also avoid giving pets any foods that are raw, moldy, salty, or fatty. Too much of any of these foods can have negative effects on the health of your favorite pet.

If you suspect your pet consumed the wrong thing this Halloween, seek help from an emergency veterinarian in your area.