As our little goblins and ghouls prepare for Halloween they may not know that our nation’s dogs are also preparing for a revered holiday of their own. It is known as the feast day of Saint Sucrose, and on this day all dogs are expected to participate in the traditional scarfing of the goodies. Bowls and bags of delectables are brought into the home and placed at about nose level, where dogs with good timing and speed will be able to gorge themselves to their hearts content before the feast is abruptly ended with the traditional shouting of "NO NO BAD DOG."
The after-feast festivities often involve a hearty bout of vomiting and diarrhea which can sometimes persist for a day or two. If the dog has managed to really shock her digestive tract she may even achieve the coveted status of uncontrollable, squirting, bloody diarrhea that requires either going outside every 15 minutes all night long or lovely stains left on the living room carpet. This condition will sometimes resolve on its own, but a trip to the veterinarian may be able to cut the duration down from several days to several hours.
A more serious condition called pancreatitis can also develop after an excessively fatty meal. Dogs with pancreatitis tend to be vomiting relentlessly, very painful in their bellies, and they look miserable. Pancreatitis in its most extreme form can become life-threatening and may need more aggressive treatment than your average round of garbage gut. Your veterinarian can help distinguish the difference between the two and get treatment started before things go too far.
You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but the good news is that it is difficult to get a dangerous dose of the caffeine-like substance called theobromine from chocolate candy or baked goods. Brownies, cookies and cupcakes are almost entirely composed of flour and sugar, and it would be physically difficult for a dog to be able to ingest a high enough quantity of theobromine from them to induce the symptoms of seizure, coma, or death. Milk chocolate is similarly diluted with lots of not-toxic fats and sugars. Even though serious symptoms are not common when milk chocolate or baked goods are eaten, a little hyperactivity could be expected. The darker the chocolate the higher the concentration of theobromine, so dogs that get into high quality dark chocolate or squares of baking chocolate are at real risk. You can always ask your veterinarian what the best course of action would be when you find your dog sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by candy bar wrappers.
There are a couple of surprise toxins for dogs that could also be found in the children’s trick-or-treat bags. Raisins are very toxic to the kidneys of some dogs. A small box has potential to be fatal to sensitive dogs, so if a health conscious neighbor is handing out raisins instead of candy make sure that the dog does not have the chance to sneak the box that may have been set aside while the kid focuses on the sweet stuff.
Sugar free products that are made with a sweetener called xylitol are also potentially severely toxic to dogs. Xylitol is particularly common in sugar free gums. Dogs have a very different reaction to xylitol than people do, and it can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as potential liver failure from surprisingly small dosages. Ingesting an entire pack of gum is more than enough to be fatal for a medium sized dog.
If you think your dog has ingested raisins or sugar-free gum, or any other toxin very recently your best chance to prevent problems is to take the dog to the veterinarian so that they can induce vomiting and give activated charcoal in order to prevent absorption of the toxins and therefore prevent the dog from getting sick. If ingestion happened a long time ago it will still be helpful to your veterinarian to know what the offending substances may have been as they provide supportive care to try to limit the damage and get the dog through the episode.
With a little care we can all enjoy a safe and happy Halloween and feast of Saint Sucrose day, especially if we are paying attention and ready to bring out the NO NO BAD DOG early in the evening.