By Dr. Becker
Today is Halloween and a perfect time to review pet hazards associated with the holiday.
9 HOWLoween Pet Safety Tips
- Chocolate and other candy. Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs, and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic. It contains a caffeine-like stimulant substance that when ingested by your pet can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, racing pulse, and even seizures. Make sure all your family members and guests, including children, understand the importance of keeping chocolate away from your dog or cat.
Candy in general is a problem for pets because it's loaded with sugar and fat, which can lead to serious GI issues and pancreatitis. Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of chocolate, but there are other types of sweets that also pose health risks for canine and feline companions, so a good rule of thumb is to keep ALL Halloween candy out of the reach of pets.
- Candy wrappers. Halloween candy isn't the only health threat for dogs and cats. Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, which can entice your pet, and 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.
- Sugar-free goodies containing xylitol. Xylitol is an increasingly popular sugar substitute that is being added to a wide variety 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 not known, but I would recommend keeping it far away from kitties as well.
- Raisins and trail mix. Some well-meaning people hand out those tiny boxes of raisins instead of candy on Halloween. 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 an even bigger risk.
- Trick-or-treaters and other visitors. If you tend to host lots of costumed kids and/or adults at your 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 over-stimulating environment for your pet.
Some pets become anxious, fearful, and aggressive when their normally quiet, predictable evening is anything but. If your pet tends to find commotion at the front door or visitors stressful, it's best to secure her in quiet, safe spot before the action starts.
- Scary costumes. Some pets become very fearful or aggressive at the sight of certain Halloween costumes. If you suspect your dog or cat might be one of them, I recommend taking precautions to keep your pet and trick-or-treaters safe.
- Open doors. Animal shelters and rescue organizations typically experience an increase in lost pets in the days following Halloween. The front door opening and closing for trick-or-treaters, coupled with the over-stimulation of the evening, can create an opportunity for a frightened or adventurous pet to run off.
Make sure your pet's ID tag and/or microchip database information, if applicable, are up-to-date, and take necessary precautions to prevent your pet from slipping out the door and into the night.
- Candles and glow sticks. Candles, including the small ones inside Jack-o-lanterns, are fire hazards. You don't want your kitty wandering across a table or shelf decorated with lit candles, nor do you want your dog getting too frisky with a carved pumpkin with a candle inside. Make sure all these types of fire hazards are well beyond your pet's reach.
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 your pet's fur and tongue. Choking on small pieces is another hazard.
- Elaborate pet costumes. If your pet isn't costume-averse (many dogs and most cats are), just make sure whatever you put on him is:
- Lightweight to avoid overheating
- Doesn't confine or restrain his movements in any way
- Is free of any adornments he might be tempted to chew off and swallow
If your pet is frightened or annoyed by the puppy princess gown or the Grumpy Cat mask, be a pal and don't force the issue. Let your pet enjoy the holiday, too.Common sense and a little preparation will insure your four-legged family member is none the worse for wear tomorrow morning. Happy Halloween!