Halloween – proceed with caution

Halloween Dogs

Halloween is almost upon us and it’s important to remember that not every dog enjoys this holiday.

It could be as simple as a dog who does not want to be dressed up in a costume.  You’ll know.  The ears are flat, the tail is between their legs and they are not happy.  So if this is your dog, please don’t make them dress up.

If they are fearful of strangers, then the constant ring of the doorbell is likely to upset them.  Create a nice safe space for them in another room of the house as far away from the door as possible, play them soft music and include some enrichment toys.   Take turns visiting them while the Halloween trick-or-treaters come and go.

Then of course there is all the candy that is collected and handed out.  Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs.  Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine.

If your dog has eaten chocolate and you ring the vet for advice, they will need to know:

1.      Weight of your dog

2.      How much chocolate was eaten

3.      Type of chocolate

If you don’t know any of the above critical pieces of information, then get your dog to to the vet if they are open and, if not, to an emergency vet clinic.   Vets will usually induce vomiting as a first step to treatment.

The symptoms of theobromine poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms

Your dog can die from theobromine poisoning.


An increasing threat to dogs is the number of sweet products that are manufactured with xylitol, an artificial sweetener.  Sugar-free chewing gum, mints and sweets often use this sweetener and many other ‘sugar free’ products also use it.

If you have anyone diabetic in your house, chances are that you are buying products with xylitol in them.  Some medications also use it for flavouring instead of sugar – peanut butters, too.  (Clearly, some of these risks are year-round and not just Halloween risks).

The symptoms of xylitol poisoning include:

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Depression
  • Walking drunk
  • Acute collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Trembling or tremoring
  • Seizures
  • A racing heart rate
  • Jaundiced gums
  • Black-tarry stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Bruising
  • Clotting problems

Your dog can die from xylitol poisoning.

If you think your dog has ingested a product with xylitol, I wouldn’t muck around.   Get to your vet and don’t wait for symptoms to develop.  They’ll check your dog’s blood sugar level and probably induce vomiting as a first step, but intravenous fluids, careful monitoring of liver function and other supportive care are often required.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

2 responses to “Halloween – proceed with caution

  1. important post! Hoping those that NEED to read this get a chance to do so! Happy Halloween!

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