Your dog may have a habit of sticking their nose into places — and food — they shouldn't. And while candy is available year round, it's particularly ubiquitous during the Halloween season and winter holidays. You should know, however, that dogs eating candy is a lot more trick than treat. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, Halloween is the busiest time of year, with the call center receiving 12% more calls in the weekends surrounding the holiday.
Candy covers a wide spectrum and can contain ingredients dogs should just not eat. While sugar may not be toxic to dogs, it's certainly not good for them either. And chocolate candies are a whole different beast, as chocolate can definitely be toxic to dogs. Some candy may contain xylitol or some other artificial sweeteners, which can be disruptive to your dog's health or even fatal; some candy can also pose a choking hazard, depending on the size.
We spoke to Dr. Jo Myers, a Pawp vet, about dogs eating candy: why they shouldn't, which candy is most dangerous to your pup, and how to help when your dog does eat candy. She shared some helpful tips that will be important to keep in mind come Halloween and the holidays (and any other time of year your dog might wolf down some). Here's everything you should know about dogs and candy.
Talk to a vet if a dog ate candy
When it comes to dogs eating things they shouldn't, it's nearly always a good idea to talk to a vet. Nowadays, you don't need to drag your dog to the vet every time in order to figure out if they're truly in danger. Save the time, money, and stress by speaking to a vet online.
Pawp offers on-demand telehealth, meaning you can talk to a vet with no appointment necessary anytime day or night. These 24/7 online vets can help you determine (based on your pet's size, breed, medical history, etc) whether or not you require more serious (and in-person) actions to help your pet out.
Why is candy bad for dogs?
Candy can come in all different shapes and sizes, meaning there are a few different reasons it can be dangerous for your dog to eat. As Pawp vet Dr. Jo Myers explains, "Essentially any type of candy can be dangerous when consumed in a really large amount."
Some candy ingredients are unhealthy for your dog to have, like sugar, which is high in fat, and can cause complications like pancreatitis. Some ingredients are toxic, like xylitol, which can be used to artificially sweeten some candy. Sometimes candy can be wrapped in foil or cellophane, which can cause problems with digestion and dangerous blockages.
How dangerous candy is for your dog really depends on the type of candy they have ingested and how much — as well as the size of the candy and the size of your dog. Your pet's health also factors into this, Dr. Myers explains, "Dogs who are otherwise healthy are in a better position to tolerate something than a dog who already has issues."
Which candy is the most dangerous to dogs?
There are a few different ways to answer this question, but it would be easiest to break down "candy" into its subcategories to explore which types, in particular, are toxic or pose the most risk to your pet.
It's no secret chocolate is dangerous for dogs, as Dr. Jo Myers warns, "A chocolate overdose can lead to life-threatening chocolate toxicosis" although she is quick to note, "it takes a decent amount of chocolate to make a dog sick."
There are some more factors involved, including your dog's weight and the type of chocolate itself. As Dr. Myers explains, "Milk chocolate and white chocolate don't contain as much theobromine and caffeine as their darker counterparts, so it's more likely that a dog will be able to safely consume larger amounts of those types of chocolate. Baking chocolate is approximately seven times more concentrated than milk chocolate, so it's a lot easier for a dog to eat enough of it to be dangerous."
How much chocolate is toxic to dogs?
Sure, most people will probably not be handing out slabs of baking chocolate on Halloween night. So in order to understand how much chocolate is actually toxic to a dog, it's better to think of real-life examples.
As Dr. Myers says, "The generally accepted toxic dose of milk chocolate is approximately a half an ounce per pound of body weight... approximately three Hershey Kisses. This means we could expect an otherwise healthy 40-pound dog to need to eat more than 60 Hershey Kisses before getting into serious trouble. That's equivalent to more than six regular-sized Hershey bars. We can also use the calculations to determine that most healthy 40 pound dogs can eat up to as many as three regular-sized Hershey bars and not even get sick at all. That's a lot of chocolate"
And while Dr. Myers is certainly not indicating that we should feed our dogs chocolate, she is offering some peace of mind to pet parents whose pets eat a small amount of chocolate.
Sugar-free candy (xylitol)
Not all sugar-free products are toxic to dogs, but some artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, are extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol has grown in popularity over the last few years and can be found in gums, mints, candies, fruits, and even toothpastes.
Xylitol does not cause any extra insulin production in humans, but the same cannot be said for our canine friends. Xylitol is absorbed into the dog's bloodstream quickly, triggering a release of insulin. That insulin release is what causes a drop in a dog's blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia and potentially deadly effects.
How much xylitol is toxic to dogs?
There is no standard amount of xylitol in any product. Some foods or candies may have higher percentages of xylitol than others'. Xylitol is extremely potent and toxic even in small amounts, so if your dog ingests a product containing it, it is recommended that you speak with a vet immediately in order to determine next steps.
Hard or gummy candy
Outside of the ingredients featured in some of these types of candies (which you can read about in this list), hard candies, gummy candies, and candies in wrappers pose other risks. As Dr. Myers explains, "It can also be helpful to consider that sometimes it isn't the ingredients in the candy that's dangerous for the dog. Sometimes it's simply the physical mass of the candy (+/- wrappers) itself." Ingesting too many (or a candy that's too large) can prove to be either a choking or blockage hazard.
How much hard or gummy candy is dangerous for dogs?
Because we're not speaking about a toxic ingredient, it can be even more difficult to determine how much candy in this respect can hurt your dog. It's best to contact a vet to talk through your dog's size, health, and the amount of candy they've eaten.
As Dr. Myers clarifies, "Dogs are not known for showing self-restraint when it comes to eating things they shouldn't. As a result, it's not unexpected for a dog to binge and swallow your whole stash is he finds it. When this happens, the candy and/or wrappers can form a huge ball that can block the digestive tract. Thick, gummy candies like taffy present a bigger risk for something like this.
It might seem strange, but there are no well-established reasons as to why raisins (and grapes) are toxic to dogs. There are a few theories, but what remains is that, when ingested, raisins can be quite toxic to dogs. When ingested, especially in large amounts, raisins can cause damage to the kidneys. If the poisoning is left untreated, it can stop the kidneys from functioning and the dog will no longer be able to produce urine; this may lead to the kidneys shutting down, which can be fatal.
How much raisin candy is toxic to dogs?
It is difficult to determine the exact amount of raisins that prove toxic to dogs as much of seems to do with the dog in itself: how healthy your dog is, their size, and even their particular sensitivity to it. Because so much is unknown when it comes to this particular toxin, it's wise to speak to a vet immediately if your dog has ingested a raisin or grape.
Signs your dog should see a vet after eating candy
Dr. Myers says, "signs that your pet is experiencing a more serious emergency and should not wait to see the vet include tremors, seizures, agitation, digested blood in the vomit (this looks like coffee grounds), unproductive reaching or dry heaves, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, pale gums, signs of dehydration like sunken eyes, sticky lips and gums, and decreased skin turgor (a fold of skin pinched up on the back of the neck should snap right back into place when released).
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms after eating candy, you should see a vet. If there are no vets available in your area or they are closed, you can also talk to a vet online.
How to help your dog when they eat candy
The best treatment is, of course, prevention so make sure you keep your dog away from your candy as best as possible. This is especially important with kids who may keep little candy stashes throughout the home.
If your dog has eaten a toxic amount of any of these candies, you should go to the vet as quickly as possible so they may induce vomiting or pump your dog's stomach. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
DOG ATE CANDY RESOURCES:
Halloween Dangers To Dogs & Cats | Pet Poison Helpline
The Dog Ate My Candy! | Woodland Veterinary Hospital
6 Reasons Why Your Dog Shouldn't Have Sugar | Pet MD
Chocolate Toxicosis In Dogs | Merck Manual Veterinary Manual
Xylitol Poisoning In Dogs | VCA Hospitals