As our favorite time of year for tricks and, most importantly, treats approaches, so does the opportunity for our pets to try and sneak a piece (or ten!) of candy. Unfortunately, digesting candy wrappers—with or without treats inside—can wreak havoc on a cat or dog’s digestive system and can potentially lead to serious problems. Here’s what to look out for this Halloween when it comes to candy wrappers and your pets.
Signs That Your Pet Has Eaten a Candy Wrapper
“Depending on the size of the candy wrapper, your pet may show no signs of eating something they shouldn’t,” says Emmy-winning, Los Angeles-based veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber. If the wrapper is small, it is likely that the pet will pass the wrapper as a part of the digestion process. However, depending on the size of your pet (and if the wrapper is large), eating a candy wrapper can cause a blockage or obstruction and persistent vomiting.
Werber notes that in addition to digestion obstruction, there’s a chance that a candy wrapper can adhere to the lining of your pet’s stomach, which can be difficult to diagnose because it does not always show up on an X-ray.
Candy that has been consumed along with the wrapper can also present a problem with your pet. Certain sugar-free candies and baked goods contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures and even liver failure. Symptoms of xylitol toxicity can develop within 15 to 30 minutes of its ingestion.
Chocolate toxicity is another issue that can be present if your pet consumes a candy wrapper that contains chocolate. Though baking chocolate is the type that can be most toxic to pets, both milk and semi-sweet chocolate can lead to chocolate toxicity and cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure and seizures.
Treating a Pet Who Has Eaten a Candy Wrapper
If you suspect that your pet has eaten a candy wrapper, Werber recommends visiting your veterinarian for a check up and X-rays. Most of the time, such episodes do not require surgery, however, sometimes the intestines may need to be lubricated to help dislodge material and allow it to be eliminated properly as part of your pet’s digestion. Sometimes fibrous foods like bread can help “carry” the wrapper through your pet’s system to elimination, but it’s important to monitor your pet throughout the entire process.
If your pet has eaten a candy wrapper with xylitol in it (or any chocolate) your veterinarian may suggest several methods to induce vomiting and will likely undergo blood testing to assess the degree of toxicity. Prior to visiting your veterinarian, your pet should be kept in a cool, quiet space and should remain as calm as possible.
Preventing Your Pet From Eating Candy Wrappers
“The best thing you can do is to try to anticipate the problem and plan for it appropriately,” Werber says. “If a tasty treat is left on the counter within reach of your pets, you can bet that when your back is turned they will try to grab it. Keep foods and treats out of reach and offer your pet appropriate alternatives.”
Because certain quantities of items like chocolate can become toxic, keep all candy out of reach and be mindful of what party guests and visitors offer your pets.
Jessica is an editor who spends her days trying not to helicopter parent her beloved shelter pup, Darwin.