Chocolate and other Halloween treats may trick pets into endangering their health

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Dogs are dressed as cowboys while participating in the 16th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade on October 29, 2006 in New York City. The parade feature hundreds of dogs in competition for prizes in the country?s largest Halloween dog parade. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama

Kids aren't the only ones being told to keep away from candy this Halloween.

According to claims data from Petplan pet insurance, our furry family members are 25 percent more likely to get sick from eating chocolate during the week of Halloween than any other week throughout the year.

"A lot of people don't know chocolate is as dangerous as it is [for dogs]," Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services at Petplan, told

Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine that can be toxic to dogs in certain quantities. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 50 percent of dogs that eat 114 to 228 milligrams per pound or greater of the compound will die, but the minimum toxic range can be as low as 46 to 68 milligrams per pound.

Benson points out chocolate is more dangerous for dogs as cocoa content increases.

For reference, an animal would have to consume 1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight in milk chocolate to hit that minimum toxic range. It's also about 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight of semisweet chocolate, or 1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight in dark baking chocolate.

Twenty ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate could potentially kill a 22-pound dog, WebMD notes.

Keep chocolate in a cabinet out of reach from a pet, and make sure children know why this is so important, Benson recommends. In the event the dog does get into candy, it's important to know the worst-case scenario of how many candies it could have eaten so that information can be relayed to your veterinarian.

"If a small dog gets into any chocolate, even small amounts, it can be dangerous," he adds. Dogs with heart conditions, diabetes or kidney complications may fare even worse, so make sure you have all these information handy when calling a veterinarian.

The average treatment cost for a pet eating chocolate is $377, but some claims went as high as $3,000, according to Petplan.

Besides chocolate, other candies can cause diarrhea, vomiting and hyperactivity because of the sugar content. Even sugar-free candies are risky. Once, Benson treated a dog who ingested candy for people with diabetes that contained sorbitol, which is toxic to animals.

Even candy wrappers themselves can cause foreign body problems, and may obstruct a pet's digestive tract.

Cats too face a special set of risks.

Cats are less likely than dogs to ingest candy in Benson's experience, but they're more likely to ingest decorations they're playing with. A decoration with a string that anchors to an object can perforate the gut.

In addition, Halloween is often an experience for the whole family. This includes pets, and they sometimes get dressed up for the occasion.

Benson says it's essential to make sure your pet is not being constricted in the outfit, and a good way to check is by placing two fingers underneath anything you put on them.

Some dogs that have breathing problems to begin with, including bulldogs and Boston Terriers, are most at risk, he added.

Costumes with strings can get caught around the legs or other body parts as well.

"We'll leave the dignity issue out," he joked.

If you're taking your dog out trick-or-treating, make sure it has been microchipped and is up to date on vaccines. If you know your animal has anxiety issues -- such as by getting scared during thunderstorms -- it might be wise to place the pet in a darkened room far away from the activity of trick-or-treaters knocking on the door.

"Some may be fine, but I think the escape thing is reason enough to put them in the separate room," Benson pointed out.