As soon as the calendar changed to October, my kids wanted to start celebrating Halloween. Decorations and candy are filling our house and it’s not even mid-October. Halloween can be such a fun time of year for children and adults alike, but sadly it can be dangerous to pets. It’s the busiest time of year for the Pet Poison Hotline since companion animals accidentally ingest Halloween candy or decor. The following five safety tips will help ensure your pet stays safe this Halloween season.
1) Keep chocolate and xylitol candy out of your pet’s reach: One of the biggest hazards to pets during Halloween is candy. Make sure your candy is secured in a container and in an area where your pet cannot reach it.
Chocolate is especially toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine, a bitter, caffeine-related alkaloid, which can have a dangerous effect on your pet. If this chemical builds up in your pet’s system, it can be lethal. The effects of theobromine on a pet depend on their size and the quantity of chocolate eaten.
If your pet ingests any amount of chocolate, call your veterinarian right away and report your pet’s weight and the estimated amount of chocolate ingested. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, heavy breathing, muscle tremors, seizures, lack of bladder control, and in the most severe toxicity cases, a coma may result. These blatant indicators mean something is wrong with your pet and they require prompt veterinary attention.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be found in many forms of foods and candy products, especially sugar-free candies and gum. Xylitol is not known to be dangerous to people, however veterinarians are seeing increased rates of Xylitol poisoning in animals. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reports that they see thousands of cases of Xylitol poisoning in pets each year.
In addition the dangers of chocolate and sugar-free candies, straight up sugar candy can be dangerous to pets as well. Too much sugary candy can lead to pancreatitis.
2) Keep decorations out of reach: Make sure you know which Halloween decorations are dangerous to pets. Some hazards are obvious, such as lit candles. But, according to the Humane Society of the United States, there are other decorations pet owners should be concerned about: Rubber eyeballs (choking risk), fake blood (possible poison), fake cobwebs (can choke or entangle pets and wildlife), and potpourri (toxic to birds).
The ASPCA Poison Control Center reports that they commonly get calls about pets puncturing glow sticks. While most of them are labeled as non-toxic, they do have a bitter taste and pets who bite them will often drool and start racing around the house. A treat or a sip of milk typically stops this taste reaction.
3) Keep your pet in a safe and quiet part of the house: Constant knocking and doorbell ringing all night can be stressful for pets. Loud noises and people in costumes could cause your pet to become agitated and uncharacteristic behavior may result. Cats also tend to run when they hear loud noises, so make sure you keep them inside. Unless you have a very social dog, the best place for your pet on Halloween is tucked away in a quiet room of the house and out of harm’s way. You may also want to play soothing music to drown out the noise and activity going on outside. If you have a pet who experiences anxiety, be sure to speak with your veterinarian about options to help calm your pet.
4) Avoid dressing up your pet: Most pets do not like to be dressed up for Halloween. Costumes can confine your pet’s movement and masks can obstruct their vision. If you happen to have one of those rare pets who like being dressed up, make sure the costume is safe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement, sight or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe. Keep a lookout for small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces on the costume that your pet could possibly choke on.
PetMD suggests taking the time to let your pet try the costume and get used to it before the big night. If your pet does not seem thrilled to be wearing the costume, try a bandanna or a new festive collar. Never leave a costumed pet unattended.
5) Make sure your pet has proper identification: Your pet should be wearing a collar, along with a proper ID tag, in case your pet escapes despite your best efforts. If your pet becomes lost, check with your humane society and animal control right away.
A word about black cats: The superstition surrounding black cats cause them to be the target of pranks on Halloween. Therefore, people with black cats should be extra careful about keeping them safely inside on Halloween. 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.
Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian or the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline immediately at 1-800-213-6680 if you suspect that your animal companion has ingested something or might be injured. Keep these numbers on hand for quicker response — the faster that you can get help, the less your animal companion will suffer and the more likely he or she will make a speedy recovery.
Keeping these safety tips in mind, you can have a safe and happy Halloween with your children and your pets!