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Trick or Treat - Risks For Pets

Our latest blog explores all of the scary and surprising risks for your pets this Halloween, along with our top tips on how to keep them safe.

Food Hazards

For us humans, Halloween brings lots of delicious sweets and treats, however, these can be life-threatening for our pets.


Whilst most people are aware that chocolate is poisonous for dogs, it’s often less publicised the danger chocolate can also pose for other pets including cats and rabbits.

The toxic component of chocolate is called theobromine, whilst this is easily metabolised in humans, pets process this much slower which creates a build-up of toxins in their systems. Theobromine in chocolate is just as toxic for cats as it is for dogs. Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic and problematic it is for your pet.

Small amounts of chocolate are unlikely to be life-threatening but may result in your pet vomiting and having diarrhoea. However, in cases where large amounts of chocolate have been ingested, pets can present with seizures, muscle tremors, irregular heartbeats, and can even have heart attacks.

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning Include:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting

  • Panting/fast breathing

  • Drinking excessively

  • Peeing excessively

  • Shaking

  • High temperatures

  • Restlessness

  • Painful belly

  • Seizures

  • A fast heartbeat

If you think your pet may have ingested a large volume of chocolate, it’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately. At Roundwood we can help treat poisoning by inducing vomitings, giving activated charcoal, or/ and putting them on a fluid drip.


Whilst chocolate is often thought of as the number one danger to dogs, xylitol is even more toxic. Xylitol can cause seizures, liver failure, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or even death in dogs, even in small amounts.

Xylitol is a natural sugar alternative that is commonly found in hard-boiled sweets, sugar-free gum, chocolates, peanut butter, and mints. When humans consume xylitol it does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas, however, a dogs’ pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar, which results in a potent release of more insulin from the pancreas. This rapid increase of insulin causes a drop in blood sugar which can be life-threatening.

Whilst xylitol poses a risk for most furry creates including dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs, luckily it doesn’t appear as toxic to cats.

Signs of Xylitol Poisoning:

  • Vomiting

  • Difficulty walking or standing

  • Lethargy

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

Similarly to chocolate, consult your veterinarian if your pet indulges in any sugar-free treats you think may contain xylitol.


Sweets and treats, aren’t the only food-related problems for your pets at Halloween. Sweet and chocolate wrappers are equally as dangerous when swallowed by pets. They can cause choking, vomiting, diarrhoea, digestive system inflammation and/or a possible blockage of the intestine.

Bags of sweets or crisp packets can also be deadly as they can create a vacuum-like seal and cause suffocation in less than five minutes.

Avoid leaving any chocolate or sweet wrappers in places that are accessible to your pets.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Vomiting

  • Decreased energy and appetite

  • Constipation/straining

Again, should your pet consume a package, try to keep hold of the wrapper and contact us immediately.


Although pumpkins are non-toxic to pets, spoiled pumpkins can lead to digestive issues such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Curious pets can also be susceptible to dangerous intestinal blockage if they swallow a large piece of pumpkins, seeds or the stem.


Dressing up your pet can be a cute way of including them in the family festivities. However, it isn’t for all pets. Whilst some pets don’t mind costumes, for others it can cause unnecessary stress.

If you choose to dress up your pet, be aware of costumes that limit movement, sight, breathing, hearing, and the ability to eat or drink. It’s also important to make sure your pet’s costume is comfortable for them (not too loose or tight), non-constricting and doesn’t have any small parts, or elastic bands as these can be choking hazards.

Some owners also like to colour or dye their pets fur to get into the Halloween spirit. Whilst some products are pet friendly, we generally suggest against doing this as it can cause unnecessary discomfort, distress, or health problems.

If you plan to dress up your pet this Halloween, allow your pet time to get used to their costume, putting on one item at a time followed by treats and affection can help it seem like a fun and rewarding game. Remember to follow your pets lead, if dressing up is a stressful experience for them, don’t force them to do anything they are uncomfortable with.

Signs of Discomfort Include:

  • A tucked tail

  • Hunching over

  • Folded down ears

  • Whining

  • Licking lips

  • and looking sideways

Remember, if you do intend to dress up your pet, never leave them unattended in their costume.


Creating the right Halloween atmosphere often involves decorations that can be pet safety hazards.


Although candles are a great way to set a spooky mood, pets are often attracted to the bright light of a flame. Be wary of cats and dogs (particularly puppies and kittens) that may brush up against an open flame or knock them over. Candles can result in your pet getting severe burns or/and even starting a house fire.

As well as the risk of being knocked over, candles are also commonly made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum. When burnt, these can release harmful fumes into the air which can cause stress or irritation to your pet. Pets with sensitive respiratory systems (such as rats), can find it hard to breathe when around lit candles. It’s also important to notes that pets have a stronger sense of smell than humans do, so will experience the smell of scented candles more intensely.

Signs your pet is irritated by a candle include:

  • Sniffing

  • Sneezing

  • Drinking excessive amounts of water

  • Itching

Ideally, you should opt for all-natural alternatives (such as beeswax candles). Remember to keep candles out of reach of pets and never leave your pet unoccupied in a room with a candle alight.

Fake Webs and Other Decorations

When ingested, common Halloween decorations such as fake webs, plastic spiders and tinsel, can obstruct your pets digestive tract and result in an invasive surgery to resolve. Other decorations, such as potpourri can also be toxic for your pet (especially for birds).

Most animals tend to explore new things with their mouths, so avoid keeping any decorations at floor level.

Glow Sticks

Glow sticks or glow jewellery are often used around Halloween time. Inside glow sticks contains dibutyl phthalate, as well as being toxic to most pets when ingested, if spilt or split open dibutyl phthalate can irritate the skin or eyes of your pet, particularly if they get it on their paws and continue to groom themselves.

Signs of dibutyl phthalate poisoning include:

  • Drooling

  • Gagging/retching

  • Vomiting

  • Redness around or in the eyes

  • Skin irritation

Trick or Treaters’

We suggest keeping pets (particularly dogs and cats) inside where possible on Halloween night. Ideally, pets should be kept in a separate room away from the front door, this way you can avoid your pet bolting when guests arrive at the door. Keeping your pet in a separate room can also minimise the stress of ringing doorbells and visitors. For dogs who have noise-related anxiety, we advise keeping them stimulated during trick-or-treating hours with interactive feeders, puzzles and toys.

For outdoor cats, Halloween can be particularly dangerous, as they could be intentionally terrorised by children (or even adults) in costumes. There is also the added danger of unoccupied candles in Jack O’Lanterns, sweets and chocolate. We suggest keeping them inside with food puzzles to keep them busy.

If you do take your dog trick-or-treating, keep them on a lead to avoid them running away if scared, eating dropped sweets, or running into cars. Using a light-up or reflective collar is also helpful so passers-by and cars can see them.

Finally, make sure your pet is microchipped and is wearing a collar with ID tags, this way is if for any reason they do escape it’ll be much easier to find them.

If you are worried about keeping your pet stress-free this Halloween, don’t hesitate to contact us at Roundwood.

To book an appointment, click the link below:

Have a spooky and safe Halloween!


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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