The ongoing festive season means a lot of gifts, chocolate, candy, and various yummy goodies. But while we may gorge on it, we need to be careful of what our pets end up eating. The excitement — and sugar rush — may leave humans unaware that all that dessert might just be lethal for their hovering pet dogs and cats. Those four-legged family members can’t metabolize candy like humans, said Leasa Greer, manager of nutrition and regulatory affairs for Solid Gold, a line of natural, health-focused foods and treats for dogs and cats. Generally, pet owners likely know what their animals should and shouldn’t eat, but they may not know why, she said.
Chocolate, for instance, contains caffeine and a compound called theobromine, which can be toxic in certain doses to both dogs and cats, Greer said. Cats can’t taste sweet so aren’t necessarily as drawn to chocolate as dogs, she noted. Theobromine is more concentrated in darker chocolates so that type is particularly perilous, Greer said. Symptoms of chocolate upset include digestive upset (vomiting, diarrhea), restlessness, hyperactivity and trembling, she said.
Then there’s xylitol, a sugar substitute found in some sugarless gums and candies. It can cause hypoglycemia, seizures and even liver failure in dogs, Greer said. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning can include vomiting, weakness and lack of coordination. “It is important to keep sweets secured in a location above the animal’s reach. Containers with a secure lid will also prevent any possible encounters and reduce the smell,” said Brian Ogle, an assistant professor of anthrozoology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida.
What’s inside all those wrappers isn’t the only potential problem. Wrappers themselves can be problematic for pets. Dogs often consume the wrappers, which can cause bowel blockages or stomach irritation, Greer said. “If you suspect your dog is having digestive upset, first seek veterinarian supervision and help them soothe their stomachs with a bland diet that includes home-cooked chicken breast and rice, or ground beef and rice,” Greer said.
But it’s not all gloom and doom for the pets in search of treats. Some seasonal superfoods that dogs and cats can enjoy while the humans live it up on Halloween include pumpkin. The rinds make for a great source of soluble fiber to support proper digestion, Greer said. Apples are an excellent source of phytonutrients that support the overall health of pets, she said. Lentils are also a great source of dietary fiber for a healthy digestive system, providing folate and magnesium as well to support heart health.Ben Williamson, a spokesman for the animal rights group PETA, cautioned that raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts are among other foods that can be harmful to dogs if they ingest enough of them. Other symptoms of toxicity are lethargy, not defecating or straining to defecate, increased thirst and an elevated heart rate.