Halloween is a great time to indulge in treats, and your pet wants to be included in the fun. However, not all treats found at Halloween parties and in trick-or-treat bags are safe for your pet. Our team at Homestead Animal Hospital would like to answer some frequently asked questions concerning pet safe treats, to ensure your pet’s health is safeguarded.

Question: Is chocolate a good treat for my pet?

Answer: No. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which cause central nervous system stimulation, diuresis, increased skeletal and cardiac muscle contraction, and elevated epinephrine levels in pets. Signs include restlessness, increased urination and thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and a distended abdomen. In severe cases, signs can progress to rigidity, incoordination, and seizures.

Q: Is sugar-free candy better for my pet than regular candy?

A: No. You should avoid giving your pet any candy. The small size can be a choking hazard, and plastic and foil wrappers can cause gastrointestinal obstruction. Sugar-free candies are especially harmful to pets, because many contain xylitol, which causes a dose-dependent insulin release, resulting in severe hypoglycemia. Signs include weakness, incoordination, vomiting, seizures, and coma. Liver failure also can occur at high doses.

Q: Are vegetables a good treat for my pet?

A: Most vegetables are a great, healthy, low-calorie option for pet treats. Acceptable vegetables include carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, zucchini, and beets. You can feed these veggies cooked or raw, but do not season them if you decide to feed them cooked. Also, ensure you cut the pieces in appropriate sizes, to prevent choking hazards. Vegetables to avoid, whether cooked or raw, include:

  • Rhubarb — Commonly used to make jellies, sauces, and pies, rhubarb contains oxalates, which are toxic to pets, causing abnormalities in the nervous system, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Allium family — Onions, chives, leeks, and garlic are all members of this vegetable family, which contains disulfides and thiosulfates. The toxins can cause the red blood cells to become fragile and burst, resulting in anemia. Initial signs include vomiting and diarrhea, progressing to signs indicating anemia, including lethargy, pale mucous membranes, rapid breathing, and blood-tinged urine.

Q: Is fruit a good treat for my pet?

A: Most fruits are an excellent option for pet treats, but they are higher in sugar than vegetables, so should be given in moderation. Acceptable fruits include bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, pears, and mangoes. Ensure you cut appropriate-sized pieces, to prevent choking hazards. Fruits to avoid include:

  • Peaches and plums — These fruits are safe, as long as you don’t offer your pet the entire fruit, because the pit can become a choking hazard, or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. The pit also contains cyanide, which is toxic to pets, if they open the pit. Signs include excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and paralysis.
  • Grapes and raisins — An unknown toxin in grapes and raisins causes kidney failure in dogs. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite.
  • Avocado — The avocado flesh can be fed to pets in small amounts, but all parts contain the toxin persin. Ensure your pet does not ingest the skin, leaves, or pit from the avocado. Signs include vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Limes and lemons — These citrus fruits contain psoralen, a toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea in pets. In severe cases, pets can also experience muscle tremors, incoordination, and liver failure.

Q: Are nuts a good treat for my pet?

A: No. While most nuts are not toxic to your pet, they are high in fat, and can result in pancreatitis, unless fed in small amounts. They also can be a choking hazard for pets. Certain nuts, such as almonds, have sharp edges that can cause damage to your pet’s esophagus if they are not chewed well before being swallowed. Macadamia nuts contain an unknown toxin for pets, which causes signs including lethargy, vomiting, muscle spasms, and hyperthermia.

Q: Is pumpkin a good treat for my pet?

A: Canned, cooked pumpkin is a great treat for your pet, while pumpkin spice treats are unsafe. Several spices used to flavor these treats are harmful to pets, including:

  • Cinnamon — Cinnamon can be extremely irritating to your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.
  • Nutmeg — This spice contains myristicin, a toxin that causes signs that include disorientation, stomach pain, elevated heart rate, and seizures, in pets.

Q: Is popcorn a good treat for my pet?

A: Yes. Plain, air-popped popcorn is a good option for a pet treat. However, to keep the treat safe and healthy for your pet, you must ensure the kernels are fully popped, to avoid a choking hazard, and you must not add butter, salt, or any other ingredients.

Your pet’s treats should be limited to 10 percent of their total caloric intake, to avoid weight gain. You can also use non-food treats, such as snuggle time, nature walks, and game time to treat your pet. If you are concerned about something your pet ingested, do not hesitate to contact our team at Homestead Animal Hospital, so we can determine if they chose a treat that has become a trick.