Chocolate and sweets may be found in abundance around your home at this time of year, and although these may be a treat for us humans, they can make our canine companions very unwell.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs, as well as other animals such as cats, rodents and rabbits. Generally speaking, the darker and more expensive the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, and therefore the more poisonous it is. White chocolate contains very little theobromine and so is unlikely to cause chocolate poisoning, but is still very fatty and can make your dog ill.
Chocolate can initially cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but is a stimulant and so can cause your dog to become excitable, as well as develop muscle twitching, tremors, fitting and life threatening problems with their heart.
If available in large quantities some dogs may gorge themselves on sugary sweets kept aside for, or collected by, trick-or-treaters. After eating lots of sugar, or even lots of fat, dogs can develop pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas), which may cause them to be off their food, develop vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and go into organ failure.
Some sugar-free sweets and chewing gums contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which can be very poisonous to dogs. Xylitol is more commonly found in food products in America, but is beginning to appear in sugar-free products in the UK as well. Xylitol can cause an otherwise healthy dog's blood sugar level to drop to dangerous levels and can also cause liver failure.
If eaten, sweet wrappers, lollipop sticks, food containers/ boxes, or even small parts from a Halloween costume can all cause an obstruction in your dog's gut. This can be very dangerous and may require surgical intervention. Signs of an obstruction may include your dog being off their food, vomiting, lethargy and not defecating or finding it difficult to defecate.
What to do if your dog has eaten chocolate, lots of sweets or items which could cause an obstruction?
- Consult your local veterinary practice immediately
- It is important that your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be clinically assessed or treated. Where possible ensure that you tell them:
- What your dog has eaten
- How much has been eaten
- When it was eaten
- Do not try and make your dog sick- trying to do this can sometimes cause other complications, which can make your dog unwell.
Keep candlelit carved pumpkins out of the way of waggy tails and nosey noses. A knocked over candle may cause your dog to become burnt, or may in turn cause a house fire. Keep all candles, and all candlelit pumpkins, out of the way of your dogs. Place any lit items on surfaces that are not likely to reached or jolted by your dog.
Frequent calls at the door from costumed trick-or-treaters may make your dog anxious or stressed. Think about how your dog is when you usually have visitors at the door, and take extra precautions to keep your dog calm and in a quiet and safe place throughout the evening. Masks and costumes can cause even the most familiar people to look and smell different to a dog, so if going out trick-or-treating you may wish to leave your dog at home.
For further information about substances that could be poisonous to your dog, please click here.
Alternatively, veterinary practices can order a number of free information guides on “Common Canine poisons in the home and garden” by clicking here.