If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call East York Veterinary Center at (717) 840-1025 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/


Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which can make pets sick. In general, the darker the chocolate, the more poisonous it is (baking chocolate is the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, then flavored sweets). 

A single 1.55 ounce Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is enough to make a small dog very sick, whereas the same amount of baking chocolate is enough to make a medium to large dog very sick.

Symptoms in dogs that have ingested chocolate may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or agitation/hyperactivity, an elevated heart rate, tremors or seizures, and death in severe cases.

It takes around 4 days for the compounds in chocolate to be completely metabolized and eliminated from a dog’s system. If the chocolate was only just eaten, it is possible to induce vomiting (under the guidance of a veterinarian); otherwise, hospitalization and supportive treatment are needed to counteract the effects and clear the compounds out of the body faster.

Another problem with chocolate is its fat and sugar content which can cause an upset stomach.  In addition, a sudden high fat meal e.g., dog eats an entire bag of chocolates, can cause severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).  Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are just the beginning; pancreatitis can quickly become very serious and even be fatal.  


Xylitol is a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free gum and candy and is popular in food items for those with diabetes and on low carbohydrate diets.  It is also available in a granulated form for baking and is increasingly being included in toothpastes and other oral hygiene products due to its anti-cavity properties.  Xylitol is very toxic in dogs, causing dangerously low blood sugar levels and liver failure. 

  • Vomiting is often the first symptom
  • Signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) such as lethargy and weakness occur rapidly
  • Diarrhea, collapse and seizures may be seen
  • Dogs that develop acute liver failure may not show signs of hypoglycemia immediately after ingestion of xylitol

Dogs that eat even small amounts of food containing xylitol can still become very ill.  Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid giving any foods that contain xylitol to dogs.  If your dog does get into food or candy that contains xylitol, get to the veterinarian immediately so that treatment can be undertaken.  Unfortunately, the effects of xylitol can be so severe that some dogs who are treated still may not recover. 


Very small amounts of raisins (or grapes) can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats.  Some dogs develop what are called idiosyncratic reactions, meaning that ingesting any amount can cause serious damage.  Pets that have ingested raisins may show signs such as lethargy, vomiting/nausea, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain all related to kidney damage.  Because of this, it is strongly recommended that your pet be taken to the veterinarian for treatment promptly if any raisins (or grapes) have been eaten. 


Ingestion of foil and cellophane wrappers can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal obstructions which often require surgical intervention.  Symptoms in pets that may be obstructed from ingesting candy wrappers include vomiting, decreased appetite, lethargy, not defecating or straining to defecate.


Glow sticks & jewelry can be quite appealing chew toys for some pets, especially for cats.  In addition to the choking hazard, the contents of glow sticks can cause pain and irritation in the mouth with profuse drooling and foaming.


While all of the decorations that we put out for Halloween help to create a festive and frightening time, they can also pose a threat to our pets.  Aside from being knocked over, candles may be eaten, causing gastrointestinal upset and other problems.  Lights and other electrical decorations can be a problem if your pet chews on the cord.  Electrocution in our pets, just like in ourselves, can be fatal and can lead to secondary problems even if it is survived.


Some costumes can cause discomfort in pets, and any metallic beads, snaps, or other small pieces (particularly those made of zinc or lead) can result in serious poisoning if ingested. Don’t use dye or apply coloring to a pet’s fur, even if the dye is labeled non-toxic to humans. If you dress your pets in costumes, be sure the costume doesn’t impair the pet's vision, movement, or air intake.


Some dogs and cats can be very sensitive to noises and changes in their environment. On Halloween, unknown people in costume coming to the house and repeated ringing of the doorbell can be very distressing.  Be sure to remember your pets on Halloween by offering them tasty treats and providing a “safe haven” for them in the house to keep them comfortable. Always be aware of where your pet is when the door is open while handing out candy to keep him from darting out or encountering unknown people he may be fearful of.