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Holiday Dietary Indiscretion: Your Pet and Your Extra Halloween Candy

This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as Holiday Dietary Indiscretion: Your Pet and Your Extra Halloween Candy


Halloween, Easter, and most other holidays focus on the abundance of decadent foods. Unfortunately, these tasty treats often pose dangerous health hazards to our pets when inappropriately ingested.  Although Halloween is over, pet owners can’t overlook the potential their canine or feline companion will ingest the candy lingering around the house for weeks to come.

Dogs are very sensitive to stimulating chemicals, such as theobromine, which is found in chocolate. Most of these candies are all chock-full of sugar and fat, which can lead to digestive tract upset.

As parents strive to keep their kids from consuming mass quantities of this year’s candy, the same efforts should be made to protect pets.  Children typically keep their candy to themselves and may even hide it in their rooms (for easy snacking).  Unfortunately, this entices pets (especially dogs) to commit acts of dietary indiscretion.

Dietary indiscretion is the inappropriate consumption of foods or environmental materials, which commonly causes some form of digestive illness often requiring a veterinarian exam, diagnostics, and treatment.  Around Halloween, dietary indiscretion involving chocolate is one of the most common toxic exposures we see.

Dogs are very sensitive to stimulating chemicals, such as theobromine, which is found in chocolate.  Dogs metabolize theobromine at a slower rate than humans; therefore they are more susceptible to toxicity from chocolate consumption.  Gastrointestinal, urogenital, cardiovascular, and neurologic signs can be seen.

  • Gastrointestinal- vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Urogenital- increased urination, urinary incontinence
  • Cardiovascular- increased heart rate, cardiac arrhythmia
  • Neurologic- restlessness, agitation, vocalizing, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, death

Baking and dark chocolate have the highest concentrations of theobromine, while semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate contain lesser amounts.  The lowest concentrations of theobromine are present in chocolate flavored commercial products and baked goods.  White chocolate has no theobromine, but does contain fat, sugar, and other ingredients that can lead to digestive tract upset.

If your pooch gets into your kids’ chocolate stash, reference this helpful chocolate toxicity table and immediately seek advice from your veterinarian or veterinary emergency hospital.

If you suspect or know your pet has consumed a toxic substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680).

Keep close tabs on the Halloween candy by storing in sealable containers out of the reach of both kids and pets.  Educate your kids about the sickening effects chocolate and candy has on pets.  If children better understand the potential toxicity of their Halloween candy, they’ll be less prone to leave stray treats behind!

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

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