The weeks surrounding Halloween are usually one of the busiest periods of the year for our team at the VPIS and APL. The season presents many potential hazards to pets, including the consumption of Halloween chocolates and sweets.

The primary toxins in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. Although the concentration of theobromine is 3-10 times greater than that of caffeine, both constituents contribute to the characteristic picture of CNS stimulation with cardiac and respiratory hyperactivity in chocolate intoxication. While many are aware of the danger chocolate poses to dogs, the same danger to cats also applies. Treatment is aimed at reducing absorption, rehydration and controlling CNS stimulation. The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate, as well as the manufacturer. At the VPIS, we have gathered information on the chocolate content of many products, and use this in developing a tailored treatment plan for patients.

Other sweet treats, especially those containing xylitol, also pose a significant risk to dogs this season. The sugar alternative xylitol can be found in ‘sugar-free’ sweets, gum, chocolate, some peanut butters, and many more. Treatment for xylitol ingestion is recommended for any ingestion over 0.05 g/kg (50 mg/kg),  and the main concerns are hypoglycaemia and liver failure. Xylitol is well tolerated in cats and is not associated with the toxic effects seen in dogs.