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Keep Pets Safe This Halloween: Top Toxins to Avoid

Halloween is around the corner, and with it, an influx of chocolates and artificial sweeteners that are quite dangerous for pets.


Dogs have adventurous appetites, but those can sadly get them into serious trouble. They are especially prone to accidental poisoning, given their propensity to take a bite out of...most things. In 2007, a study showed that dogs comprised 70% of pet poisoning cases. Cats, meanwhile, have their own set of poisonous household toxins to avoid, including a wide variety of plants.


Human Foods that Poison Pets


Many foods that pose no threats to humans can seriously poison a pet. In fact, approximately 15% of pet poisonings occur when a pet eats one of the following foods.

  • Grapes and raisins: What could be less threatening than a grape? Unfortunately, these healthy snacks can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Pet owners with dogs who have recently ingested grapes or raisins should contact poison control or the vet immediately.

  • Candy: With Halloween on its way, it’s worth a reminder that chocolate and xylitol are dangerous for pets. Most dog owners have probably heard about chocolate, but xylitol, a type of artificial sweetener, also poses a serious risk. In dogs, xylitol causes a spike in insulin and a decrease in blood glucose. This can cause lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea, and in extreme cases can lead to liver failure. Xylitol shows up in gum, certain candies, and toothpaste. According to the American Veterinary Medicine Associations, these types of poisonings may be on the rise, due in part to the increase in the number of products that contain xylitol.

  • Macadamia nuts: Research hasn’t revealed what makes macadamia nuts poisonous to dogs, but they can cause vomiting, depression, and tremors.

  • Onions and garlic: These vegetables from the allium family are poisonous to both cats and dogs, and cats are especially sensitive to garlic. Alliums can cause damage to red blood cells which can lead to anemia.

  • Caffeine: Make sure to pick up any stray coffee beans off the floor. Coffee grounds and tea bags are quite toxic to cats and small dogs, and ingesting them can result in death.

  • Peach and plum pits: Pits of stone fruits contain a poisonous chemical called cyanide. Pits might also cause intestinal blockages in smaller dogs.

  • Bread dough: Lots of us started baking to get through the doldrums of quarantine, but this activity comes with a risk for pets, especially dogs. Make sure they stay away from the counters while you’re baking.

Household Plants


Cat owners have to be wary of plants in their home, as one Twitter-user found out the hard way: “My boss sent me condolence flowers for my grandmother's passing and my cat ate them and is now hospitalized.”


The flowers in question were lilies, which are just one of the many household plants poisonous to cats. Reject any bouquets that contain the following poisonous-to-pets blooms:

  • Daffodils

  • Hydrangeas

  • Poinsettias

  • Amaryllises

  • Lilies

But don’t despair, flower lovers! There are still plenty of pet-friendly, highly aesthetic flowers that you can keep in your home. Roses don’t pose a health threat, nor do orchids, daisies, or violets. You can read a more complete list of pet-friendly flowers (as well as toxic plants to avoid) here.


Medications and Chemicals


  • Painkillers and blood thinners: Medications frequently indicated in cases of pet poisoning are coumarin derivatives. This includes common drugs like Warfarin. Given the right dose, any medication can be toxic to pets, even medicine you might give them in small amounts, like Tylenol.

  • Permethrin: Permethrin is a popular pesticide, sometimes sprayed on dogs to keep fleas and ticks away. While it doesn’t bother dogs, the same dose that makes it useful as a pesticide is quite toxic to cats. Cats who come into contact with a dog recently treated with permethrin can, in the worst-case scenarios, experience tremors and seizures. The lower-concentration of the formula used to spray on human clothes is not a concern for cats, but pet owners should still be cautious about spraying it near their cats.

  • Antifreeze: This one is probably obvious, but it’s worth a reminder. Antifreeze tastes sweet to animals, and needs to be kept safely stored.

  • Pennies: Since the 1980s, pennies have been made out of mostly zinc, a dangerous metal for dogs. Keep loose change away from adventurous eaters!

Signs of poisoning


Keep a look out for the following most common signs of poisoning.

  • Dogs: Possible signs of poisoning include lethargy, staggering, vomiting, trouble breathing, tremors, loss of use of their limbs, and diarrhea.

  • Cats: Not eating, listlessness, vomiting, and diarrhea.


How to Help Poisoned Pets?


Pet owners should call their veterinarian, or a dedicated pet poison control number. such as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) to consult with an expert about what steps to take. Poison control numbers are also an excellent 24/7 resource for pet owners who aren’t sure if their pet needs help.


Accidents happen, and it’s impossible to monitor every single thing pets ingest. But if your pet is acting strangely and you’ve noticed some candy go missing, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.




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