So your pet ate the holiday candy.  It might sound like a joke, but if it happened – it isn’t.  What’s delicious to us humans can be toxic to our pets.  And how you respond to the emergency depends on the type of sweet treats they ate.  If you suspect your pet pal has been secretly snacking on your candy or chocolate – and dogs tend to be the main culprits – here’s what you need to do:


Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant found in cocoa beans.  It can be toxic to dogs and cats because their bodies metabolize it slower than us humans.  The result?  Your pet’s heart will race up to twice its normal rate and some dogs and cats may run around as if they’d lapped up 10 cups of coffee.  Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and death in severe cases. This infographic shows how much theobromine different types of chocolate contain.  The darker the chocolate, the potentially higher the concentration of theobromine – and the greater the risk your furry buddy will become ill.  This chart also helps you calculate if your pet has eaten a potentially dangerous amount, with 20 mg/lb. being in the danger zone.   If you suspect (or know) your pet has eaten chocolate, call the experts at the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435 immediately.  They’re the best resource for any animal poison-related emergency and are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  (They may charge a $65 consultation fee.)  Be ready to tell them what type of chocolate your pet ate, how much they ingested, their weight, and the approximate time it happened.  If at all possible, find the wrappers of the items eaten.  They’ll offer advice and tell you if you need to see your vet for further care.  This could include getting your pet to vomit, giving activated charcoal and IV fluids, and doing labwork.  If they recommend you see your vet, they’ll give you a case number so your vet can also contact them.  Your vet will benefit from the info and it will help them direct their treatment.  


Sugary, high-fat soft and hard candies: they’re tasty and addictive.  This category also includes milk chocolates that may not have enough chocolate to be toxic but has enough fat and sugar to be a problem.  If your cat or dog starts snacking on them, especially in large amounts, they could start vomiting or get diarrhea – or worse, pancreatitis.  Symptoms of pancreatitis can include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, kidney failure, and other organ damage.  Did we mention candy’s also a choking hazard for pets?  And if they eat wrapped candy, your pet pal with a sweet tooth could end up with internal blockage. Even worse, some sugar-free candies contain xylitol, a natural sugar substitute.  While xylitol may be good for us humans looking to cut back on calories, it can cause a rapid release of insulin in pets.  Too much insulin affects the amount of sugar in your precious pet’s blood, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  This can cause vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures.  As well as hypoglycemia, xylitol can cause liver failure.  As with chocolate poisoning, immediately call the ASPCA Poison Control.  Your vet may need to provide more care – such as blood tests and IV fluids – until your pet’s blood sugar levels and kidney functions return to normal. You can find some great tips on how to keep your pet away from candy here.  And you needn’t be a total scrooge during the holidays.  Give your candy-loving pets their own special treats.  Try a safe, natural chew for dogs such as one from the Buffalo Range line of All Natural Buffalo Rawhide Treats.  They’re made with only four natural, delicious ingredients that are gentle on the stomach and fully digestible.  Or follow these recipes for homemade pet treats.