Your dog watches you with pleading eyes as you tear open your third—or is it fourth?—Halloween candy. They do not understand that chocolate and many other common candy ingredients are dangerous for pets. They simply know that you never share many of the treats.
Halloween can be a confusing time for pets, because they are surrounded by so many tempting treats that they simply cannot eat. However, you don’t need to deny your pet all the fun this Halloween season. Check out Alpine Animal Hospital’s guide to pet-safe treats, and give that begging dog a bone—rather, a biscuit.
Unsafe Halloween ingredients for pets
First, let’s review exactly what not to feed your pet. Many pet owners know that chocolate is unsafe for dogs and cats, but may not realize that other Halloween treats are equally dangerous. Here’s the rundown on toxic foods you should never feed your pet:
- Chocolate — While all chocolate is unhealthy for pets, dark, semi-sweet, and bitter chocolate is the most dangerous. Chocolate contains stimulants that act on the nervous system and heart, causing arrhythmias, muscle tremors, seizures, and death.
- Xylitol — This natural sweetener is commonly found in sugar-free candies, gum, and cough drops, but now is also used in various snack foods. Xylitol causes dangerously low blood glucose in pets, and may lead to liver damage.
- Grapes and raisins — In some dogs, these can cause kidney failure.
- Macadamia nuts — These nuts may be hiding in chocolates or nut-fillings, and cause weakness, vomiting, depression, and tremors.
- Yeast dough — Yeast dough can rise in your pet’s digestive tract and release gas, causing intense pain, and potential stomach or intestinal rupture.
- Garlic and onions — Garlic bulbs may scare off vampires, but they can also make your pet incredibly sick. Garlic and onions can trigger digestive upset, and damage red blood cells.
Toxic ingredients are not the only danger—pets can get in trouble with non-toxic candy, too. Pets can choke on their stolen goodies if they eat too quickly, or may develop an intestinal obstruction if they consume candy wrappers, ribbon, or twist-ties.
If your pet has ingested a toxin or inedible object, call Alpine Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Pet Poison Control.
Why we recommend treats for your pet
In moderation, treats can add enjoyment and novelty to your pet’s life, and can be used to:
- Communicate effectively during training
- Improve relationships
- Provide enrichment
- Entertain confined pets
- Promote desirable behaviors
- Form positive associations with novel or previously negative stimuli (e.g., trash truck, veterinary exam, mail carrier)
On the afternoon of Halloween, play fun games with small treats, so your pet will rest during the evening. In the evening, while they are confined, use long-lasting treats to keep them safely occupied. Alpine Animal Hospital suggests confining your pet in a quiet room during parties or trick-or-treating, to prevent unnecessary anxiety or injury, or potential escape.
Pet-safe Halloween treat recommendations
We weren’t tricking you—here are our recommendations for pet-safe Halloween treats:
- Treats for walks, training, and games — Use these small, healthy treats to engage your pet before night falls:
- Tuna treats for dogs and cats — These crumb-free treats appeal to dogs and cats alike, and can be sliced into small bites with a pizza cutter. The recipe works well with canned chicken or salmon, too.
- Cheesy popcorn — Make plain popcorn in an air popper, and toss with powdered or parmesan cheese. Don’t let your pet see you sneak a mouthful of their treat!
Let your pet trick-or-treat by hiding treats or new toys in an assortment of cardboard boxes, and letting your pet hunt for them. Or, simply scatter treats outside on untreated grass, for a more natural experience.
- Long-lasting treats for confinement and distraction — These treats require more effort and time to consume, making them the perfect distraction on All Hallow’s Eve. Licking and chewing promote relaxation and contentment, and your pet will be ready for a long nap after finishing these snacks:
- Pumpkin fro-yo — Indulge your pet with the season’s hottest flavor—pumpkin! Mix a spoonful of pumpkin puree with xylitol-free plain yogurt, and then fill silicone popsicle molds with the mixture. Top with a biscuit handle. Freeze and serve.
- Pumpkin-peanut butter Kong — Using your dog’s toy as a size-guide, combine xylitol-free plain yogurt, and a spoonful each of xylitol-free peanut butter and pumpkin puree. Place the Kong inside a coffee mug for stability, and fill. For long-lasting enjoyment, freeze and serve.
- Lap it up, kitty — Serve up some feline delight by spreading wet food, smashed canned fish (e.g., tuna, sardines), or low-sodium broth or cat “soup” treats on a Licki-Mat. Cats are naturally soothed by the lapping action, and the grooved design will slow down fast eaters.
These pet-safe treats have all been reviewed and recommended by our veterinarians. However, remember that treats should never make up more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calorie intake. So, if you’re feeding them a stuffed Kong, reduce their meal amount before or after—or increase their exercise—to prevent weight gain. Also, remember to always ask your veterinarian before introducing any new foods to your pet.
For additional questions about safe foods for your pet, or if you are concerned they may have a digestive disorder or food intolerance, or they are overweight, contact Alpine Animal Hospital.