Happy Halloween! People of all ages look forward to this spooky holiday filled with candy, scary outfits, and antics. While your pet would also love to do some tricks for a treat, this spooky holiday can be dangerous for them if not looked after properly. Before, during, and after Halloween, be sure to stay aware of HVC’s guidelines to allow everyone to stay happy and healthy.
Leave Your Pet at Home
“No tricks, no treats” is the best Halloween plan for your pet. That may not sound like fun for them, but if your neighborhood is particularly busy on Halloween and the sidewalks are overflowing with exuberant parents and screaming children, it is best to leave your pet at home. Even dogs who love kids and know the neighborhood well can become thrown off from the extra people, humans in costumes, and increased sensory input such as music and decorations. This fear reaction can be dangerous for everyone when pets may growl and bite when they feel threatened, even ones with normally calm temperaments.
If you do decide to venture out with your pet, make sure they are on a secure leash. Keep them close to you (no retractable leashes) at all times. Be vigilant as you observe your surroundings and assess people approaching you. Guard against friendly, excited children who want to pet your animal. Too much physical contact from strangers who do not look like normal humans, combined with the natural desire to protect their owner, can instigate an aggressive reaction from dogs.
Don’t Hand Out Treats to Your Pet
Pets should only consume foods safe for them, which does rule out all candy. Resist the temptation to share Halloween treats with your pet. Chocolate in all forms can be extremely dangerous for dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and racing heart rate. Symptoms can take a few hours to develop, remaining in the bloodstream for a longer period. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian immediately or a Pet Poison Helpline. Why? The chemical in chocolate called theobromine, very similar to caffeine, cannot metabolize easily in cats and dogs. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your furry friend. However, pets can still become ill from the fat and sugar in lighter or smaller chocolates.
Artificial sweeteners such as Xylitol are also toxic for pets. This substance has become more popular due to its low glycemic index and dental plaque fighting properties, but it is extremely toxic to dogs. The dog’s pancreas releases a high amount of insulin when ingested, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a life-threatening condition if left untreated. This can result in vomiting, lack of coordination, lethargy, seizures, and even death.
Plus, if dogs get their paws on it, they may chow down on the candy, wrappers and all. Cellophane or foil wrappers are big trouble when swallowed. Even natural treats like caramel apples should be off limits. Intestinal upsets, GI blockages, and pancreatitis can result from eating items not normally on your pet’s menu.
Help Your Pet Stay Calm
Some dogs and cats are not fans of the neighborhood candy hunt. The doorbell constantly rings and strangers invade their safe home. The amount of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can be overwhelming for your pet and causes stress. It can be difficult for your pet to process trick-or-treating and it may be difficult for them to recognize familiar faces. Many people invading your pet’s territory can be problematic. This automatically sets off your dog’s protective canine defense mechanism.
Unless your dog is extremely mellow, let them rest in a room away from the front door, with their door closed. Turning on a TV, music, or white noise can dull the sound of the doorbell and prevent anxiety. Or better yet, sit outside and intercept children before they reach your front door.
If your pet has become agitated when strangers visit, Halloween will only increase their anxieties. Some dogs get so worked up that they pace, bark, and whine all evening, which is no fun for anyone in the home. You may consider asking a veterinarian at Harmony Veterinary Center to prescribe a mild sedative. Make sure to give the medication before Halloween to observe its impact on your pet in a controlled environment.
Include Them Safely
Many people enjoy dressing their pets up for Halloween. After all, what’s cuter than Charlie as Superman or Bella the pumpkin? However, costumes should be loose enough to provide freedom of movement, without tripping up their paws. Costumes that are too tight can restrict breathing and make movement difficult. Make sure your pet’s costume does not interfere with their vision, hearing, or bodily functions. In addition, forcing a pet into a costume they aren’t happy or comfortable with increases stress, which is integral to every pet’s health and well-being. When picking out that costume, keep these aspects in mind and respect your fur baby’s comfort and health.
Additionally, keep a lookout for small parts on a costume such as buttons or strings that could be chewed off and swallowed. Avoid hair dyes or paints on the pet, as they may become toxic if ingested. Check the labels of products to ensure they are non-toxic if you must use them. For a safe and trendy option, consider Halloween themed bandanas that provide comfort and style!
Keep The Fear to the Decorations
Festive decorations set the Halloween mood but can pose health risks for your dog. While non-toxic, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds can upset a pet’s stomach, especially when consumed in large quantities. Lit candles in Jack-O-Lanterns become fire hazards when toppled by a curious cat. Fall-colored corn cobs are pretty, but they can obstruct the intestinal tract and often require surgical removal. Decorative holiday lights may brighten your porch, but remember to keep both lights and power cords out of your dog’s reach. Nibbling on electrical cords can be shocking!
Regardless of decoration type, keep them above pet level and away from other areas they can access. Keep an eye out for loose materials so your pet does not eat these and end the festivities with gastric upset and a trip to an Emergency Vet.