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Q: Our two young Lab-shep mixes jump up on the kitchen counter to steal food when we’re not watching. On Halloween, we want to offer the neighborhood trick-or-treaters goodies that either won’t attract our dogs or are safe if they filch a bit. What do you recommend?

A: Non-food items, such as toys or money, shouldn’t tempt your dogs but will make child-size ghosts and goblins smile. If you’d rather hand out food treats, consider pretzels, popcorn, nuts, crackers with cheese or peanut butter, or granola bars without chocolate or raisins.

Stay away from these traditional Halloween treats, which are toxic to dogs:

  • Chocolate can cause restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures, and a rapid, irregular heart rhythm. Dogs metabolize the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate very slowly, which means the toxic effects persist for many hours.
  • Sugar-free chewing gum and candies that contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener, are dangerous in two ways. In dogs, xylitol stimulates insulin secretion and therefore drops blood sugar to levels low enough to cause loss of coordination and seizures. Xylitol also can cause liver failure in dogs. Without immediate veterinary care, either side effect can be deadly.
  • Licorice may induce abnormal heart rhythms and elevated blood pressure by altering electrolytes.
  • Lollipops are risky because the sticks can obstruct the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Raisins and grapes can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, even in tiny amounts. The mechanism is unknown.

Editor’s Note: Looking for DIY Halloween pet ideas? Here’s some of our favorite pet costumes and treats you can make at home.

Before the trick-or-treaters arrive at your door, have your pups on leashes, in their crates or in another room so they won’t bolt out the door. For dogs, Halloween is indeed a scary holiday.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

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