Halloween mischief isn’t solely the province of hobgoblins and ghouls — opportunistic dogs can hardly resist the piles of sweets collected by their families and often deposited within easy reach.

That’s bad news for Fido because many of those sweets pose a special health hazard for dogs, and veterinarians are urging pet owners to keep the treats out of reach.

“If a dog eats a single Hershey’s kiss, it’s unlikely to run into trouble,” said Dr. Emuel Vassey, a veterinarian with the Animal Emergency Clinic on Warren Avenue in Portland. “A seven- to eight-pound dog eating a good-sized chocolate bar could be dangerous.”

The animal hospital gets frantic phone calls every year at this time as worried dog owners try to figure out how to treat a dog that’s ingested an assortment of Chunkys, Sugar Daddys, Blow Pops and Three Musketeers.

“It’s a good idea to contact a veterinary facility fairly quickly,” Vassey said. “The sooner you get on top of this and have some sort of idea of the level of concern, the better.”

The big worry for dogs is chocolate, especially dark chocolate, Vassey said. The chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant that dogs lack the enzymes to metabolize. The confection can make the dog hyper and even threaten its life as its heartbeat speeds up.

Another concern at Halloween is raisins, often handed out to trick-or-treaters as a healthy alternative to sweets. But nature’s candy is bad for dogs, Vassey said.

Not surprisingly, chocolate-covered raisins are especially bad, he said.

There are other hazards, as well.

“Sometimes dogs will eat candy whole, including wrappers, lollipop sticks or anything else that might be attached. This might lead to an intestinal blockage that might not show up for days,” Dr. Ron DeHaven, head of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said in a written statement.

“Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener common in baked goods, chewing gums and some candies, has also been found to be poisonous to dogs as well.”

Halloween isn’t the only spooky holiday for misbehaving dogs. Easter isn’t much better, and Valentine’s Day poses the double penalty of sickening the dog and angering the alpha female of the house.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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