Peppermint - The Forbidden Holiday Treat

by Veterinary Experts

With the holidays past us now, you would think that the common pet holiday dangers are far out of sight… but I learned just this week that they’re not! My Christmas tree (an artificial one) was put away, decorations were stashed back in their boxes in the basement, and my biggest worry, the family members that come and go and could potentially let one of my indoor kitties outside, is now past. What I wasn’t expecting was what the leftover candy canes could bring along.

Candy canes are a sugary peppermint flavored treat that many kids and adults love. Little did I know, though, that my cats would love them too! My son had a few boxes left, which were left out on a counter, and soon became cat food. Day after day for the last two weeks, my cats have been fascinated with those boxes of candy canes, but I assumed it was because of the plastic wrapping. Cats love to chew on crinkly plastic, so we simply put the boxes away. My son, however, left a box out one night, and the cats had a party! But what’s worse is, I didn’t learn about this until my 17-year-old diabetic was vomiting hot pink foam early the next morning!

Peppermint, it turns out, is a member of the catnip family, which explains why my cats found these candy canes irresistible. Dogs often love them too. Fortunately, most of the candy canes today are not made with peppermint oil, which can make a pet quite ill. Instead, they’re made with peppermint flavoring, which at worst would cause mild GI upset for your dog or cat if consumed in large quantities. All that sugar is not good for any pet, though, and especially not for a diabetic animal. In addition, the candy canes can "splinter", causing damage to the GI tract during consumption or vomiting.

My other major concern was evaluating whether or not these candy canes had an artificial sweetener in them. Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener that is so toxic, it can prove fatal to your dog or cat. I got lucky, and my candy canes were made of sugar, water, peppermint flavor, and food coloring. But your pet may not be so lucky!

Keep in mind that cats and dogs are curious creatures, and even common ingredients like peppermint can be perceived as  irresistible to your pet. Another example is antifreeze, which dogs and cats find to taste sweet, where we would find it to be bitter, and the attraction could prove fatal. Always take precautions to make sure your dogs and cats are protected from candy, cleaning supplies, and plants throughout your home. You never know what they’ll be attracted to, and you never know what damage it will cause.