Tonawanda News

October 15, 2012

Yes to tricks, no to treats

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — We show our love through food. 

Roasted peanuts in creamy caramel covered by milk chocolate must scream affection. Avocado and tomato-garlic bruschetta sends signals of romance at any fine restaurant. 

I know I feel cherished when I bite into a vanilla ice cream cake shell with chocolate ice cream, fudge and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies in the middle. And what pet doesn’t like a few table scraps here and there?

Halloween scares me and it may not be for the reason you are thinking. Our critter companions have access to many potential toxins around the holidays. From certain types of nuts, candies and the infamous chocolate bar, pets can find themselves in a lot of dilemmas.

Food that contains the group methylxanthines can cause your pets to be ill. Methylxanthines, which includes theobromine and caffeine, come from cacao seeds. 

It can be found in chocolate, coffee and some types of soda. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate which is worse than white chocolate. 

According to veterinarian Dr. Laura Tonetti of East Hill Animal Hospital, only a half ounce of baking chocolate per pound of body weight can be poisonous to an animal. Animals that have ingested methylxanthines can be suffer from panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death warns the ASPCA . 

The good news is usually the animal vomits before many of the side effects can take place. The bad news is you will have to make another tray of the Franken-brownies Sparky scarfed down.

For those of you who give out healthy food, like raisins, for Halloween, I have two warnings for you. The first is, us trick-or-treaters don’t like it. Please give us candy. Or you can be really cool like that house that gives out four quarters to all the kids. 

The second problem is that this “healthy” snack can also be dangerous to our pets. Grapes, raisins and wine have an unknown chemical that can cause kidney failure. The problems can be more sudden for pets that already have health illnesses. 

About two weeks ago a coworker, Craig, disclosed to my department that in his free time he has been writing a book. The book revolves around a group of middle-aged vampires. The most frightening part of the story was when another co-worker, Jess, asked if the book was fiction or nonfiction.

Whether or not vampires are real or fake, or have six-pack abs or beer bellies, do not feed your pets garlic to save them from the living dead. Garlic, as well as onions and chives, can cause irritation in the digestive track and red blood cell damage. The ASPCA says that the small amounts of these foods in store bought treats and pet foods should not cause a problem, but strongly recommends not feeding them in large dosages.

Another compound that is common around Halloween time is xylitol. Xylitol is used as a sweetener in toothpaste, baked goods, candy and sugar-free gum. This chemical can cause an insulin release in most pets which can lead to liver failure. The first symptoms to be seen is weakness, uncoordinated movements, depression and seizures. This chemical is also responsible for acting as a mild laxative in humans. So it is no fun all around.

If you are beyond carrying pillow cases filled with candy and stuffing plastic orange bags with leaves, you may not be out of the woods yet. There are adult food items as well that our pets need to avoid. Macadamia nuts, avocado and alcohol can all be toxic.

Macadamia nuts are used in many baked goods and candy bars. I just had six white chocolate macadamia nut cookies this week (and by week I mean last Tuesday). These nuts can present problems to our pet dogs by causing weakness, depression, vomiting and tremors. The first signs usually appear within twelve hours and can last up to two days.

Avocados are quite notorious for being lethal to some of our feathered companions. In addition to birds, dogs and rodents should avoid this food. Persin is a fungicidal toxin to our pets and is found in the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados. It triggers congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid buildup around the heart. So no guacamole for our pets.

If you are looking for a deadly cocktail this Halloween you could always mix alcohol and pets. According to the ASPCA alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors and abnormal blood acidity when ingested by pets. Although I have had people tell me that they allow their pets to sip their beers and they see no adverse effects, I strongly advise against this.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.