A Happy Halloween for Pets
Nine Ways to Keep a Dog or Cat Safe
by Karen Shaw Becker
Halloween is celebrated on October 31, and as always on this fun holiday for humans, it’s important to take precautions to ensure furry family members wake up healthy, happy and safe on November 1. Here are some potential hazards to avoid.
Chocolate: All chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs, and the darker it is, the more toxic. It contains a caffeine-like stimulant that when ingested by a pet, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, racing pulse and seizures. Make sure all family members and guests, including children, understand the importance of keeping chocolate away from the dog or cat.
Sugar-free goodies containing xylitol: This is a popular sugar substitute added to an increasing number of consumer products, including sugar-free candy, gum, mints and baked goods. A small amount of xylitol can cause a rapid and dangerous blood sugar drop in dogs, as well as acute liver failure. Xylitol’s effect on cats is unknown, but keep it far away from the kitties, as well.
Raisins and trail mix: Instead of candy, some well-meaning people hand out tiny boxes of raisins or small bags of trail mix containing raisins and/or chocolate candy such as M&Ms. Unfortunately, raisins are toxic to dogs and cats, and can cause kidney failure even in very small amounts. Chocolate-covered raisins pose a double-barrelled risk.
Candy wrappers: Halloween candy isn’t the only health threat for dogs and cats. Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, enticing a pet. The ingestion of foil and cellophane wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction. It’s very important to stress to children, in particular, the need to keep all candy wrappers out of the reach of pets.
Candles and glow sticks: Candles, including the small ones inside Jack-o’-lanterns, are fire hazards. Make sure they are well beyond a pet’s reach, so that a kitty doesn’t wander across a table or shelf decorated with lit candles or a dog doesn’t get too frisky with a carved pumpkin with a candle inside. Glow sticks and jewelry have become very popular, and pets (especially cats) have been known to chew on them. The substance that creates the glow is phenol, which can leak out and burn a pet’s fur and tongue. Choking on small pieces is another hazard.
Scary human costumes: Some pets can become very fearful or aggressive at the sight of certain Halloween costumes, including those that may resemble a dog or cat. In such instances, take precautions to keep both a pet and trick-or-treaters safe.
Elaborate pet costumes: Even if a pet isn’t costume-averse (many dogs and most cats are), make sure whatever is put on her is lightweight to avoid overheating, doesn’t confine or restrain their movement in any way and is free of any adornments they might be tempted to chew off and swallow. If they are frightened or annoyed by the puppy princess gown or the Grumpy Cat mask, be a pal and don’t force the issue. Let them enjoy the holiday, too.
Trick-or-treaters and other visitors: If lots of costumed kids or adults show up at the house on Halloween, be aware that a constantly ringing doorbell, knocks and strangers at the door and a general mood of excitement can create an overstimulating environment for a pet. Some pets become anxious, fearful and aggressive when their normally quiet, predictable evening is anything but. If a pet tends to find commotion at the front door or visitors stressful, it’s best to secure them in a quiet, safe spot before the action starts.
Open doors: Animal shelters and rescue organizations typically experience an increase in lost pets in the days following Halloween. Opening and closing the front door for trick-or-treaters, coupled with the event’s high level of excitement, can create an opportunity for a frightened or adventurous pet to run off. Make sure a pet’s ID tag and/or microchip database information, if applicable, are up to date and take precautions to prevent them from slipping out the door and into the night.
Veterinarian Karen Shaw Becker has spent her career empowering animal guardians to make knowledgeable decisions to extend the life and improve well-being of their animals.