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3 Common Ingredients That Make Dogs Ill During Halloween

on November 19, 2020

Traditionally, Christmas has been the time of year when we focus on all the dangerous things that can cause harm to our pets but with Halloween gaining more popularity in the UK, it's important to be aware that your pet could pick and eat some potentially deadly objects and foods this October too.

Sugar-Free (Xylitol) Alternatives

Xylitol is found in many items, especially (but not limited to) those that are labelled “sugar-free”. It can be found in sweets, chewing gums, foods, toothpastes, mouthwash and some supplements. Xylitol can be used as a home baking ingredient - a sugar substitute in cakes for diabetics.

Most cases of xylitol poisoning are accidental and occur when a dog has managed to eat something it shouldn’t but it’s still important to be aware of the ingredients in “human foods” that you offer your pet. For example, peanut butter is a popular food item given to dogs as a treat, rubber toy filling or even as a way of hiding medication such as tablets. Some brands of peanut butter are now using xylitol instead of sugar so it’s important to check the labels. Xylitol may also be labelled as E967.


Low blood sugar (your dog may appear lethargic, weak or uncoordinated when walking)



    If you suspect your dog has eaten something containing xylitol you should contact your vet immediately, don’t wait to see if they develop symptoms. Time is of the essence and prompt treatment is your dog’s best chance of a good outcome.

    It is important not to try and make your dog vomit as this may lower his blood pressure further causing further complications. Xylitol is found in many items, especially (but not limited to) those that are labelled “sugar-free”.


    We all love chocolate at Halloween, great for parties or trick or treating. However, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and can be fatal if they eat too much. Chocolate is toxic because it contains the methylxanthine called theobromine. This chemical is similar to caffeine, which can be toxic to cats and dogs. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the quality and type of chocolate.

    Symptoms can start to show after a dog eats as little as 20mg of theobromine per kg of chocolate. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet. High quality dark chocolate has 130-450mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate, whereas standard milk chocolate has 44-58 mg of theobromine per ounce. White chocolate is less toxic at 0.25mg, however pets can still get sick from all the sugar and fat.

    Whilst we recommend you contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate. There are online calculators that can give you an idea of how toxic a chocolate dose can be.


    The signs of chocolate poisoning can take hours to develop and can last for days.

    Theobromine is a stimulant (similar to caffeine) and its affects can be mainly seen on the central nervous system and heart, and at high levels secondary effects on the kidneys can be seen. The most common clinical symptoms in mild cases are gastric upsets but as the amount ingested increases you start seeing changes affecting the central nervous and urinary systems so any of the following could be present:

    Vomiting and diarrhoea 
    Increased thirst 
    Panting or restlessness 
    Excessive urination 
    Muscle spasms or tremors 
    Occasionally seizures. 


      If you think your dog has eaten chocolate, it is best to call your vet for advice to assess the severity of the problems and get them seen immediately if appropriate. There is no known antidote for Theobromine so the aims of treatment are to reduce the amount that is absorbed and support the animal to eliminate the toxins from its system to minimise the damage they can cause.

      Common practice would be to induce the animal to be sick if there is a likelihood of chocolate still being in the stomach (up to 2hrs after ingestion), administer activated charcoal to block absorption of the toxins and then every four to six hours for 24 hours, to stop the reabsorption of the toxins and if required intravenous fluids and medication to flush out the toxins and support the animals kidneys.

       My dogs eaten a Halloween treat!


      Glow Sticks and Fluorescent Jewellery

      Glow sticks, fluorescent bangles and necklaces are great at Halloween for decorating, for parties or costumes. However, the chemical inside these luminous items can cause our pets to become very sick if they chew and eat it. They contain a mixture of chemicals including a luminescer and an activator which can include an oily liquid called dibutyl phthalate. DBP, as it is also known, has a bitter taste and can cause organ problems in some pets.

      Another problem with glow sticks is that some have a little glass vial which is broken in order to create the glow. If your pet chews a glow stick these glass bits may get stuck in their gums or throat.


      Drooling or foaming of the mouth 
      Irritation to the mouth 
      Pawing at mouth 
      Extreme agitation, which may manifest as aggression or hyperactivity in some cases 
      Occasionally, vomiting or retching.

        The good news is that although the VPIS (Veterinary Poisons Information Service) had 500 reported cases of dogs ingesting these luminous items in 2013 all the animals (of the 50 that provided feedback) recovered well.


        DBP is known as more of an irritant than a toxin, as glow sticks don’t contain enough to cause fatal symptoms. However, the bitter taste will remain for a long time, and some vets will encourage owners to wash their pets’ tongues with a wet cloth. Perhaps giving them something nice to eat to mask the taste is another tip some vets use.

        If you turn off your lights and your pet lights up like a glow stick, especially around the mouth area, it is probably best to wash your pet thoroughly in the shower. If you think your pet has ingested DBP or glass parts, call your vet. They may want to monitor your pet and will give you advice on how to proceed.


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