Did you know Candy Canes Can Be Deadly to Dogs?

Can dogs eat candy canes? Nothing is more on-brand during the holiday season than a good peppermint candy cane. Hanging candy canes on the Christmas tree is one of our family’s favorite traditions over the years, but we always kept them high on the tree to save our black lab from pulling one down.

A sugar-free, artificial sweetener called Xylitol can be found in peppermint candy canes, as well as gums and even peanut butters. According to The Preventive Vet, Xylitol poisons over 6,000 dogs every year.

There are hundreds of household products that contain Xylitol, ranging from gum, candies, and mints (lollipops!) to peanut and nut butters. Many pet owners fill Kongs with peanut butter, so this is a very important list to consider and update before shopping for toy fillers.

Signs of Xylitol Poisoning

If you suspect your dog ingested candy or gum, immediately head to your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic. Symptoms can include:

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Walking drunk
  • Depression
  • Acute collapse
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Racing heart rate
  • Trembling or tremoring
  • Jaundiced gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Black-tarry stool
  • Bruising
  • Clotting problems
  • Abnormal mentation

If your dog treats themself to a candy cane, the first thing to do is not panic. Inducing vomiting is NOT always the right thing to do, so you need to call your vet first and ask about how best to proceed. Foreign objects will do more harm if they are vomited, especially if there is a blockage caused by plastic wrapping, so be careful!

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) explains:

“Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may apply). Be prepared to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight and any symptoms. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.”

Great resources include the AVMA’s pet poison tips, an important site for pet parents, as well as the ASPCA Poison Control Center: www.aspca.org/apcc.

The pet poison helpline is a contact number you should have saved in your contact list!

Since Xylitol toxicity can cause both low blood glucose and low potassium levels, the vet will do blood work to rule out a number of things. Signs of hypoglycemia and even severe hypoglycemia are common. It is important to share with your vet or DVM how much Xylitol they potentially got into.