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‘Tis the Season: The Dangers of Pets Ingesting Halloween Candy and Other Holiday Foods

October brings the headlong rush of holidays and all the yummy smells that go with it, from pumpkin spices to Thanksgiving pies and turkey to chocolate treats.

The extra celebrations around your house probably come with food. Your furry friends may not look forward to the holiday season as much as you do, but they might notice something’s different — or at least smells different! Cats and dogs may rub your legs or give you the big “feed me” eyes, but some holiday foods are dangerous for them.

According to the National Institutes of Health, dogs and cats account for 95–98% of all reported potential animal poisonings. The number of incidents rises in the summer and in December — around the holidays.

A sick pet will mean a trip to the veterinarian and disrupting the holidays. Keep your pet healthy by taking note of these common holiday foods that can harm your pet. (Note: Cats tend to be pickier about what they eat, so you’ll see more references to dogs in this list, but our feline friends should avoid these foods, too.)

Halloween Candy

  • Xylitol is found in sugar-free gum and candies and is toxic to pets. A dog will experience a severe drop in blood sugar within minutes of digestion. This drop can be deadly.
  • Chocolate is toxic to pets and can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
  • Raisins, grapes, and other grape products can cause kidney failure. (Doubly bad are chocolate-covered raisins often seen in Halloween buckets.)
  • Hard candy may be small, but if your dog scarfs down several of these treats, they can easily lodge in his throat.
  • Candy corn and other high-sugar candy cause severe gas and diarrhea.


Bonus tip: Watch out for wrappers! Dogs love to dig into candy bowls, and they won’t bother to take the foil off those tiny treats.

Thanksgiving/Christmas Foods

  • Macadamia Nuts aren’t strictly a holiday treat, but many people put out bowls of nuts during parties. These nuts also frequently appear in candy and chocolate. Watch to make sure your dog doesn’t investigate the nut bowl; these nuts can cause depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, joint pain, and pale gums in dogs.
  • Onions and garlic are part of most kitchens and many dishes, whether it’s the holiday season or not. Both can cause damage to a pet’s healthy red blood cells. If untreated, this can lead to anemia. Despite what you may read, garlic is not a cure for fleas. This category includes leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots. 
  • Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages can cause abnormal heart rhythm and death in pets.
  • Unbaked bread dough can expand in your pet’s stomach. In some cases, the stomach will twist in response, which cuts of the blood supply. Some yeast dough can also produce alcohol, which causes respiratory failure and seizures.
  • Alcohol, as you just read, is also a no-no.
  • Bones from a turkey or other animals can splinter either in the throat or stomach, causing severe damage. A small bit of turkey, ham, or roast is OK for dogs, but try to avoid prepared meats that have added nitrites and preservatives, such as deli meat.
  • Leftovers are tempting to offer your pet, but some fatty leftovers can cause upset stomachs. Frequent feedings may lead to obesity or pancreatitis. 
  • Sweet potato casserole has a lot of extra things harmful for pets, such as sugar and marshmallows. It’s fine to feed your dog sweet potatoes as long as they are plain. Feed him only cooked sweet potatoes; raw potatoes are harsh on the tummy.  
  • Cranberry sauce is full of sugar and can cause yeast problems. On the other hand, plain cranberries are fine if they are fresh or dried. In fact, they are good for dogs who get urinary tract infections.
  • Hops are not found in all homes, but if you’re a home brewer or simply celebrate with a pint, make sure your pet stays away. Hops contain resins, essential oils, and tannins — which cause high fevers in pets. If your pet ingests hops, you may also notice panting, rapid heart rate, seizures, and vomiting.
  • Raw meat may seem appetizing to your dog, but it can cause E. coli poisoning in him as well as you.


Finally, watch out for what’s hidden. Stuffing, for example, may have onions and raisins. Corn dishes often contain onions. If you’re not sure, avoid feeding the food to your dog.

We hope you and your pet have a safe and happy holiday season! Contact us if you have questions about a particular food and whether it’s safe. 

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