Halloween is just around the corner which can only mean one thing - lots of yummy treats. Of course dogs deserve a treat too, but it's important to check that they're safe before allowing your pets to get their paws on them.

Committed owners are very generous when it comes to their canine companions, opening their hearts and homes to them. Some even share their food. However, some foods which are perfectly safe to humans should be widely avoided by dogs. Although some foods can provide plenty of health benefits for our doggy pals - such as better breath, allergy immunity, and joint strength - some can wreak havoc on their body and cause severe damage. It is important to distinguish between the two so that dogs can join their owners in enjoying a safe Halloween this year.

You should also be mindful that even the safest of foods can prove harmful if not given in small amounts. Any foods given in excess can lead to canine obesity. You should choose a good quality dog food as their main diet, and try to maintain consistency where possible.

When giving your pets a treat, you should teach them to take it slowly and gently. Snatching the food quickly means that they swallow air at the same time, which expands in their stomach and can cause pain and discomfort. Gobbling food often results in choking and vomiting, and in more serious cases, can lead to a condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus. Make sure that you watch your pets until the whole treat has been consumed so that you can be at hand immediately if the worst is to happen.

Too much sugar can cause dogs to become overweight and experience problems with their teeth, but this doesn't mean that they can't enjoy some not-so-sweet treats this Halloween.

Below is a list of dog-friendly desserts which they are sure to appreciate:

  • HONEY: In small amounts, honey is great for dogs as it is packed with numerous vitamins and antioxidants. It introduces pollen into their system, building up immunity and helping with allergies.
  • POPSICLES: Some dogs are lactose intolerant, so to be on the safe side, you can substitute milk for water and freeze with fruit to make a perfect refreshing treat for your four legged friends. Most dogs are very accepting of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples, although grapes are a definite no go.
  • COCONUT: Coconut contains lauric acid, which has several benefits for dogs. It can help combat bacteria and viruses, as well as helping with bad breath and clearing up skin conditions. It's just important to remember to take off the furry outer layer before giving coconut to your dog as this can become lodged in their throat.
  • PEANUT BUTTER: Dogs love peanut butter, which is great because it's an excellent source of protein. Just be careful to read the label as some contain xylitol, a sugar substitute which is toxic to dogs.
  • POPCORN: Unsalted and unbuttered popcorn is fine for dogs, as long as all the kernels are popped first to avoid it becoming a choking hazard. It contains riboflavin and thiamine, both of which promote eye health and digestion, as well as small amounts of iron and protein.

Some foods to avoid:

  • CHOCOLATE: Yes it's true, your pets should never eat chocolate. It contains toxic substances called methylxanthines which stop a dog's metabolic process. Even the smallest amounts of chocolate can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, where as larger amounts can cause seizures, irregular heart function, and in the worst cases - death. If your dog does manage to ingest chocolate, you should contact a vet immediately.
  • some types of NUTS: Macadamia nuts in particular are toxic to dogs, and are some of the most poisonous foods for them. They cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, lethargy, and can even affect the nervous system. Other types of nuts can cause problems too. For example, consuming almonds can block the oesophagus or tear the windpipe if not chewed correctly. Any type of salted nuts are especially dangerous as they increase water retention, which can prove fatal to dogs who are prone to heart disease. There are some nuts which can provide health benefits when given in small quantities but if you are unsure, it is better to stay clear and protect your pet.
  • CINNAMON: It is best to avoid giving cinnamon to your dog as they certainly won't see it as a treat. It irritates the inside of their mouth, making them uncomfortable. It can lower a dog's blood sugar, which can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, an increased or decreased heart rate, and even liver disease. If inhaled in powder form, cinnamon can cause coughing, choking, and difficulty breathing. 
  • GARLIC: Just as garlic was highly toxic to Dracula, it is highly toxic to dogs too. It can create anaemia, causing side effects such as pale gums, an elevated heart rate, and weakness. It doesn't have any health benefits to dogs so paws off!

Other helpful tips:

  • When buying treats intended for dogs, check the ingredients. The higher the meat content, the more likely they are to appeal to your pet. You should also look for ingredients that are recognisable, and avoid any artificial preservatives and dyes.
  • Raw meat is associated with many risks so you should avoid giving it to your dog at all costs. Chicken can carry bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, while pork is fatty, and bacon is too salty. Raw fish may contain thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down vitamin B; cooked or steamed fish is much safer, especially salmon, sardines, or tuna.
  • Before giving cooked meat to your dog, remove large pieces of gristle and fat and the majority of bones. Whole bones are an important source of calcium and have many gum and dental care benefits, but knobbly bones can fracture teeth and may case a throat or intestinal blockage. If you do decide to give bones to your dogs, you should monitor them closely for the first signs of a problem, and remove bones once they have been gnawed to a size that is small enough to pose a choking hazard.