By Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA
Like about 70% of Americans, my family will celebrate Halloween this year. We love the treats, the decorations and the costumes! We dress up and hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters and there is usually a big party! Despite all the fun there are a host of possible issues from scary costumes, dangerous décor and food that accompany All Hallow’s Eve that makes managing pets a bit of a challenge. Here are some of the things you will want to be aware of to take steps in keeping dogs and cats safe this year.
Most dog and cat owners are familiar with the foods that are dangerous for our pets. Halloween abounds with many of the culprits like chocolate, raisins, sugar and rich treats that can cause symptoms including upset tummy, diarrhea, pain, vomiting, dehydration and even death. The Pet Poison Helpline, a 24 hour animal poison control service sees a sharp rise in call volume during October due to Halloween. Be careful to keep candy and other treats up high and stored in cabinets so your pets can’t indulge themselves, and so you can avoid using this service.
While chocolate is the most common danger people think of, other candy treats contain ingredients equally as dangerous. Some candy contains xylitol, which is poisonous to pets. Raisons, a common candy alternative or ingredient, are extremely poisonous, even in small amounts. In addition, over indulgence of sugary, high-fat treats can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and can be fatal. Symptoms may not present for several days after ingestion.
Signs to watch for include vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, excessive or decreased thirst and urination, an elevated heart rate, abdominal pain and in severe cases, seizures. If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Being vigilant, keeping pets away from the treats and party foods and pet-proofing your garbage goes a long way in keeping them safe.
Trick or Treat
Halloween often brings lots of visitors dressed in an array of costumes to your home. Pets can find the situation overwhelming and become anxious or frightened. While you may want to have your furry friends around during the festivities you should consider their well-being first. Strange people in crazy costumes, food everywhere, children squealing, frightening sounds and unusual smells can be scary and overwhelming for pets. Consider your pet’s perception of all this and plan the most effective, least stressful ways for you and your pet to manage the event. Pets can be socialized to people in costumes and all the other sights and sounds of Halloween but you need to start early providing fun, rewarding experiences with these things. This takes time and they may still find a specific costume or decoration scary. So unless your pet is comfortable with everything going on, consider alternatives.
- Consider giving your pet a vacation – a trip to daycare and a night at the local pet resort might be much more fun for Fido than greeting a multitude of strangers. An added bonus to you is being able enjoy the evening without worrying about your pet’s safety.
- Provide access to a quiet room to which the pet can “escape” if they feel stressed, anxious or sleepy.
- Keep pets in a closed bedroom or a crate during the festivities. This keeps them safe and avoids the possibility of them slipping out the door.
- Don’t force a situation where your pet must greet strangers or costumed friends. Never leave dogs and children unsupervised no matter how well behaved.
- Keeping feeding, exercise and playtimes consistent to reduce stress and avoid problems.
Your pet is super cute without a Halloween costume, but if you decide to dress them up consider their safety and comfort.
- Choose a costume that is easy to get on and off and that fits well.
- Get their costume early. Spend some time getting them comfortable getting dressed and wearing it before the big night.
- If they chew it or don’t acclimate to it, well, skip it all together. Costumed pets are cute, but not if they look stressed and miserable.
Halloween décor can be scary and dangerous for pets. Be safe by planning carefully and supervising pets. Some dangerous decorations include:
- Candles – Ensure pets do not have access to candles, even electric votives. Pets have been known to eat right through an expertly carved pumpkin!
- Electronic and motion activated items such as animated zombies, flying witches, moaning ghosts, etc. Pets may find these frightening and try to chew and destroy them. Getting shocked, ingesting pieces or being scared can all be an unwanted result.
- Glow sticks and jewelry are also a danger if chewed.
Halloween may be a great time but can turn into a horror if a pet becomes ill or injured in the fun. Plan ahead to manage and supervise your pet for a safe and fun evening for all!