Understandably, the holidays can be a stressful time for pet parents, particularly with so much candy coming in and out of the house during this time of year. But can dogs eat candy? The short answer is no! Most candy is toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms that range from an upset stomach to death. Candy and candy wrappers are also choking hazards for your pup.
While you can keep candy up on counters and in jars away from your dogs, accidents still happen. Let’s dive into which candy ingredients are particularly toxic to dogs, and what do you do if your dog eats them.
What exactly makes candy so toxic for dogs? There are a few specific ingredients found in many candies that pose serious health risks to your pup. Watch out for these four ingredients.
Caffeine is found in chocolate and some other candies. This chemical compound is dangerous to dogs and can cause severe damage to their organs. As a stimulant, caffeine raises blood pressure and can trigger cardiac arrhythmias, as well as seizures, tremors, and weakness. It also affects a dog’s liver and kidneys, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea.3
While one lick of a caffeinated candy likely won’t hurt your pup, if you think your dog has ingested much more than that, you should definitely get them checked by a veterinarian. Symptoms of caffeine toxicity can start 30 minutes after ingesting caffeine.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that’s toxic to dogs. Theobromine toxicity has similar symptoms as caffeine toxicity in dogs. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, tremors, seizures, and heart arrhythmia.
The level of toxicity depends on the size of your dog, how much chocolate they consumed, and what type of chocolate. Darker chocolate contains significantly more theobromine and is more toxic than milk chocolate.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity may take up to 12 hours to appear. However, it’s important to get your dog treated as soon as possible.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that’s highly toxic to dogs. It can be found in sugar-free candy, gum, or foods like peanut butter. Xylitol causes a dog’s blood sugar to drop suddenly. Low blood sugar can cause weakness, vomiting, hypoglycemia, acute liver failure, or even death.
Xylitol, even in tiny doses, can make your pup sick. However, symptoms of xylitol poisoning may take up to 24 hours to appear. If you think your pup consumed something with xylitol, don’t wait for symptoms to appear before getting them treatment.
Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs. While there are still studies and theories pending, we’ve yet to discover what exactly is in grapes that’s poisonous to dogs. What we do know is that even the tiniest amount of grapes or a grape product (think chocolate covered raisins) could cause acute kidney failure.
Watch out for vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, and seizures if you suspect your dog has eaten a grape. These symptoms usually appear within 24 hours, but don’t wait for signs of toxicity to appear to get your dog checked if you suspect that they’ve swallowed a grape or grape product.
While dogs can have small amounts of sugar, they shouldn’t eat it often. The occasional pup cone from your local ice cream shop should be okay as long as you don’t make it a habit.
In the short term, sugar can mess with your dog’s digestive system. It can give them indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term sugar consumption can cause cavities and weight gain while putting your dog at risk for diabetes.4
No candy is 100% safe for your dog. Instead, opt for treats formulated for dogs with safe ingredients. This way you can spoil your pup while protecting their health.
Let’s look at a few common candies and why they’re dangerous for dogs.
- Candy canes: Dogs can’t eat candy canes for a few reasons. Sugary candy canes are unhealthy and even sugar-free ones contain xylitol. Candy canes can also have sharp edges. Like chicken wing bones, candy cane fragments could cause a tear in your dog’s digestive system if swallowed.
- Cotton candy: Dogs can’t eat cotton candy, as it’s high in sugar and can make your dog sick. Alternatively, if it’s sugar-free, it probably contains xylitol, which is toxic.
- Candy corn: Dogs can’t eat candy corn. Most candy corn contains xylitol or high amounts of sugar.
- Peppermint candy: Peppermint itself is not toxic to dogs, but peppermint candy will either have sugar or xylitol, which are both harmful to your pet, so dogs cannot eat peppermint candy.
- Marshmallows: Dogs can’t eat marshmallows because they’re either high in sugar or sugar-free, both of which can make your dog sick. They’re also a choking hazard since they are difficult for dogs to chew and break down.
- Gummy bears: Gummies for humans are made with high amounts of sugar or xylitol-based sweeteners, so gummy bears, worms, and other gummy candies are off-limits to dogs.
Your dog ate candy. What next? The first thing is to figure out what your dog ate. One piece of chocolate? A whole pack of gum? The entire jar of mixed candies?
Call the animal hospital, your vet’s office, or animal poison control and explain the situation. Let them know what your dog ingested and ask for the next steps. Even if the candy didn’t contain any particularly toxic ingredients, the sugar in it may lead to pancreatitis.5
Depending on what your dog consumed and their weight, your vet may tell you to do a few things:
- Induce vomiting
- Withhold food for 24 hours
- Encourage your dog to drink water
- Bring your dog in for treatment
Candy poisoning in dogs can cause organ damage and a host of other health concerns. Your dog may need emergency treatment or long-term treatment, depending on what they consumed. These treatments can be expensive and cause pet parents even more stress. Dog insurance can help cover the costs of testing, treatment, and medication.2 This lets pet owners focus on caring for their ill pet.
Accidents happen, so be prepared with a MetLife Insurance plan.1 Get a quote today.