Every year at Halloween, animal welfare organizations issue press releases urging owners to keep careful watch over their pets. They advise owners to prohibit their animals from eating chocolate, to be careful with spider web decorations and candy wrappers, to fight the urge to dress pets up in costume, and, heaven forbid, if you have a black cat, keep it inside! The concern is serious enough that most humane societies avoid adopting out black cats during the Halloween season due to the risk of them being harmed. But are these groups becoming “Chicken Little,” or are these serious concerns pet owners should take to heart? I talked with Dr. Steven Hansen, senior vice president of ASPCA Animal Health Services, and Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Pet Adoption Center, to find out more.

I’ve read that chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine, a bitter, caffeine-related alkaloid, which can have a dangerous effect on pets. If this chemical builds up in your pet’s system, it can be lethal. How much chocolate does an animal have to eat for chocolate toxicosis to occur?

One ounce of dark chocolate or 10 ounces of milk chocolate per 10 lbs of body weight can result in problems.

Does the theobromine in chocolate affect animals other than cats and dogs?

Yes. An overdose of theobromine acts exactly like a caffeine overdose causing vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rates, tremors, and if enough is consumed, seizures.

Is it true that if animals ingest fake spider webs they become lodged in their intestines? Can wildlife be harmed by these spider webs if they are placed outside?

Yes these types of decorations can cause blockage of the stomach or intestines if enough is eaten. Similar problems as well as entanglement could occur in wildlife. We are not aware of any such cases.

If animals ingest candy wrappers, could the aluminum foil or cellophane cause problems?

Rarely. If large ingestions occurred intestinal obstruction is possible but likely rare.

What would you say to owners who dress up their pets?

If you dress up your pet, make sure the costume does not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark, or meow. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces that the pet could choke on.

What are the most common poison ingestion calls you receive from pet owners?

The number one call involves dogs chewing up vials of prescription medications. Human medications must be stored above the counter in a closed cabinet. Other problems involve misuse of pesticides and exposure to poisonous plants (aspca.org/apcc has an extensive plant section).

(If your dog or cat accidentally ingests any potentially harmful products and you need emergency advice, consult your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 (a fee applies) or aspca.org/apcc).

Should all animals, even friendly dogs, remain inside on Halloween night?

During trick-or-treating hours it is best to keep pets in a room away from your front door. Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors constantly arriving at the door, and pets may escape the safety of their home. Be sure that your pet has identification tags should he or she accidentally get loose. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with tags and/or is microchipped.

Many shelters across the nation put their black cats on “hold” for the Halloween season. Do you think this is really necessary?

A common myth at Halloween is that there is an increase in mischief to black cats. We haven’t seen any evidence that indicates that black cats are at greater risk during Halloween. Some adoption facilities restrict the adoption of black cats to prevent any misbehavior, but the ASPCA hasn’t found sufficient proof to implement this. However, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on pets during this busy holiday.

Every year the ASPCA receives countless phone calls from panicked pet owners who are frantic about their dog or cat getting into Halloween chocolate. So while the sky certainly isn’t falling, there are still causes for concern around Halloween time and pet owners really need to be vigilant. If you are a pet owner, please take this advice to heart!


C.A.R.E.4Paws Free Spay/Neuter Clinic

Every year, more than four million cats and dogs-about one every eight seconds-are euthanized in U.S. shelters because there are not enough homes for them. The situation is tragic, yet it is preventable thanks to a simple procedure: spaying/neutering.

Help improve the future for our furry friends by altering your pet now. Here’s how:

Sign up your cat or dog for a free Spay & Neuter Clinic Sunday, December 6, at Buellton Veterinary Clinic, or call C.A.R.E.4Paws about a weekday appointment.

Alter your pit bull or pit bull mix for free anytime through C.A.R.E.4Paws in collaboration with Santa Barbara’s D.A.W.G.

Members of the public interested in getting their dog or cat spayed or neutered free of charge on December 6 should contact C.A.R.E.4PAWS at 968-CARE (2273) or info@care4paws.org to reserve a spot.

C.A.R.E.4Paws-short for Community Awareness, Responsibility, Education-started its spay/neuter program with the goal of reducing the large population of unwanted dogs and cats in Santa Barbara County. To learn more about C.A.R.E.4Paws and its different programs and upcoming events, visit care4paws.org

Animal Foundation hosts DOGtoberfest

Grab your leash and come out for a day of family fun in Solvang this Saturday, October 24. The Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation is hosting the first DOGtoberfest in Solvang to benefit the homeless animals in the county’s three animal shelters. The festive event will feature a doggie costume parade, pet carnival, contests such as dog/owner look alike, best trick, waggiest tail, informational booths, adoptable dogs, food and beverages, a bake sale, and Wiener Dog Races.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 24 at Solvang Park. All dogs are welcome on leash, but you don’t need a dog to participate. County Animal Services and various rescue organizations will have adoptable pets on display. The day will include raffle prizes, vendors, and local dignitaries to judge the contests and parade. Don’t miss this great opportunity to help save the lives of shelter animals and have a day of fun with fellow animal lovers.

For more information, contact Jan Glick at 934-6953.


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Trey is a cattle dog who is 41 pounds and under a year old. He is a dog who likes to stay busy. Cattle dogs are working breeds who need a job to stay happy. And not only does Trey need a job, he also needs a home!

Trey has tons of unfocused energy and will need adopters who have experience with this breed. He needs folks with calm assertiveness. Trey likes other dogs and would do well with kids ages 8 and up, but no cats please.

Like all young dogs, Trey will need guidance, positive reinforcement training, and lots of structured play. Stop by and visit Trey at K-9 PALS, 5473 Overpass Rd. For more information, call 681-4369 or visit k-9pals.org.

Good news about K-9 Pals’ event last Saturday. The Great Ball Drop was amazing and went off without a hitch. K-9 Pals raised $7,000. They hope next year’s event will be even bigger and better.


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