Chocolate = Doggie Doom on Halloween!

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Zombies looking for tasty brains, I scoff at you! Number One Scary Halloween Thing:

Chocolate. AAAAAGH!

Chocolate contains methylxanthines, mild stimulants that feel oh-so-good to us...but not to your dog! Chocolate can make your dog vomit and give her diarrhea, and that's the least of it. High doses of chocolate can cause seizures and even death. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. If you have any artisanal single-plantation 85% cacao bars around, eat 'em or stow 'em.

Raisins! Grapes! Macadamia Nuts! Xylitol!

Raisins and grapes, organic or not, seeded or seedless, can destroy your dog's kidneys. Nobody knows what the toxic agent is or how high a dose will harm any individual dog. As for macadamias, symptoms of poisoning include wobbliness, fever, and good old fashioned vomiting. Mix macadamias and chocolate and you have Tasty Snack of Death.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener--you'll often see it in chewing gum and sugar-free candy. Dogs' bodies release insulin in response to Xylitol, the first step to hypoglycemia and possible seizures and liver failure.

Now, this is just the Halloween special; several other common human foods and household plants can poison dogs (and cats as well). Check the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control website for more information. If your pet has eaten anything dangerous, get her to the vet and call Animal Poison Control, 888-426-4435.

Costume and Parade -- Y/N?

If Zippy hides under the couch when you bring out his winter jacket, he won't like the Lindsay Lohan drag either. Also, are you sure he wants to come with you to the Halloween parade? Plenty of dogs are anxious around kids, and plenty who tolerate kids well under other circumstances may be spooked by the combination of costumes, masks, sugar highs, and wildly brandished plastic weaponry. If you know your dog will be happy-wiggly in a crowd of overstimulated children, party on; if not, give him a break and leave him home.


During trick-or-treat, you're going to open the front door to strangers approximately 500 times. How does Dogalini feel about strangers stopping by? And have you taught her to wait for permission before going out an open door? Lots of dogs are relaxed enough and well trained enough to spend Halloween afternoon lounging on the couch while you hand out the mini candy bars. (Collar and tags on, please! And of course your dog is microchipped.) On the other hand, even a friendly dog might scare the kiddies if she barks at them, and even a well-trained dog might find all the comings and goings so thrilling that she bolts. This might be a good day for your dog to relax in her crate, enjoying a delicious chew.

The trouble with these safety articles is they wind up sounding so glum! Most dogs take Halloween in stride, some dogs need a quiet place to pass the time, and, really, no dog needs to eat any candy, chocolate or otherwise, at any time of year. Take a few simple precautions, but don't relax, because here comes a gang of fairy princesses and ninjas. Meet their demands--or else.

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).