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Spooky season is upon us! But, before you start browsing costumes for your four-legged friends, let’s answer a question that every pet parent should consider this time of year. Can dogs eat candy?

It’s common knowledge that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but what about other sweet treats like candy corn and hard candies?  

Let’s dig in, so you will know what sugar-based human foods are dangerous for dogs (and what to do about it if your dog ate candy!). 

Can Dogs Eat Candy?: The Not-So-Sweet Life

Just like people, dogs can have a sweet tooth. Since they typically eat a mix of meat and plants, their bodies can break down certain naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and prey.

So, can dogs eat candy? Well, yes and no. Their bodies can process natural sugars, but they aren’t used to breaking down unnatural sugars like those found in Halloween candy. 

The biggest culprit is the sugar substitute called xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener in all kinds of human food that is toxic to pets. You normally see it in sugar-free gum and mints, but it’s starting to pop up in some forms of peanut butter and even toothpaste. 

The effects of xylitol can be minor, causing a stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea, and discomfort. Or they can cause major health problems like liver damage, low blood sugar levels, seizures, and even death. 

So it’s worthwhile to double-check labels and keep items with xylitol (or any artificial sweetener) out of your dog’s domain. Their sensitive noses and curious natures might lead them straight to your stash of Halloween candy or sugar-based treats!

Your Dog Ate Candy, Now What?

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our dogs get into something they shouldn’t. Maybe they tore into a trash bag or a well-meaning child wanted to share their Halloween haul.

Can dogs eat candy and survive? Yes, but you need to act quickly. 

If you know your dog consumed candy or other sweets, consult your vet as soon as possible. Tell them what your dog ate and how much of it. Save any wrappers or packaging to share with them. 

If acted upon quickly enough, your vet may be able to induce vomiting to rid your dog of the toxic substances. However, your dog may need to stay under medical supervision until his or her blood sugar levels return to normal.

If you can’t reach a vet immediately, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control helpline. This resource is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Other Foods To Avoid to Keep Your Dog Safe

Sweets aren’t the only thing our dogs can sniff out around our house. There are many other human foods that you should keep out of their reach. 

Chocolate, in any form, is toxic to dogs, especially dark chocolate. Chocolate toxicity (sometimes known as theobromine poisoning) can trigger muscle tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rates, and severe upset stomachs in pets. 

Grapes and raisins can also be deadly for dogs. While scientists can’t determine which toxic substance affects our furry friends, eating a grape or its dried counterpart can cause sudden kidney failure and sometimes death. 

Macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs, as well. After eating macadamia nuts, a dog can experience vomiting, ataxia (the lack of coordination), weakness, hyperthermia, and depression. 

Caffeine is another substance to keep away from your pets, especially since we know how much they love sweets. Caffeine can spur the same symptoms your dog may experience after eating chocolate. 

So keep your chocolate bars, baking chips, cookies, and coffees packed away at all times.

A Final Word on Halloween Candy

As Halloween approaches, try calling a family meeting and reminding everyone that your pet shouldn’t eat candy. Halloween candy is especially enticing as it’s individually wrapped and comes in so many varieties. 

Outside of toxicity, Halloween candy poses other threats to your animals, too. Hard candies can stick together in your dog’s stomach if he or she eats a lot of them at one time. Candy wrappers can also cause gastronomical obstructions or choking. 

Before your family heads out for trick-or-treating, designate a safe spot to store any Halloween treats your family may receive, and make sure your pet has his or her own dog treats to delight in to celebrate the holiday!

If you liked this crash course on keeping your dog safe at Halloween, you’ll love being part of Ruffly Speaking! Ruffly Speaking is an online community where you can make friends with other pet parents from across the country, get access to critical information that can protect your dog’s health, and learn how to train your dog from world-renowned dog trainers. 

Ruffly Speaking is the brainchild of The Dog Gurus, and you’re invited to join! Learn more about our work and discover how you can get involved.

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Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and for the last 30 years has been using her expertise in "reading dogs" to teach families how to train their pets as well as helping others in the pet care industry keep dogs safe.

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