Halloween may be fun for humans but not for pets
People may be celebrating Halloween a little differently this year with drive-through haunted attractions and trick-or-treating done COVID-19-style, but the holiday has many of the same potential hazards for pets.
The Pet Poison Helpline says it experiences a 12% increase in calls around Halloween.
The holiday may be the one night of the year that kids can binge on treats, but candy poses one of the biggest dangers for pets. Chocolate contains a caffeine-like chemical that causes vomiting and diarrhea if eaten in small amounts and an elevated heart rate and seizures if ingested in large quantities.
The darker or more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for pets. A bite-size chocolate candy bar may not be a problem for Fido, but too much of any kind of chocolate can be lethal for pets.
Sugarless candy and gum may contain less calories but are also toxic to dogs if they contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, an increased heart rate, seizures and liver failure.
Those mini boxes of raisins may be a healthy alternative for kids but are poisonous to dogs. Raisins, even consumed in very small quantities, can cause severe damage to the kidneys.
Keep candy buckets out of reach of pets and educate children so they are not tempted to share their treats. If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian immediately.
Another possible stressor for pets is the constant ringing of doorbells and the continual chorus of "trick-or-treats." To avoid an escape attempt or unexpected aggression from a normally mellow pet, put him in a quiet room before trick-or-treaters begin their offense. Give your pet some favorite toys and safe treats to keep him busy.
If cats are allowed outdoors, consider keeping them indoors for the few days leading up to Halloween, and especially on the big day. In addition to the normal dangers outside, Halloween presents even greater odds for injuries. Dogs should be accompanied when they go outside, even if it is in a fenced backyard.
If you are heading out with your kids for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, it is probably best to leave Fido at home. Overstimulated dogs might display behaviors out of character for them. But if Fido is joining the fun, make sure he remains on a leash the entire time (attached to a properly fitted collar) and is wearing some sort of reflective material.
Pets that are microchipped have permanent identification should they get lost outside. If your pet is not microchipped, be sure he is wearing an identification tag on his collar and that the information on his tag is up to date.
Some pets don't mind wearing costumes. For others, it is a source of stress. Costumes should be comfortable and allow for freedom of movement. They should not contain small parts that pets might swallow.
Make costumes fun. Do a few trial runs before Halloween while providing extra attention and, of course, some treats. If your pet seems stressed or uncomfortable, forget the costume. He will look just as cute donning a Halloween-themed bandanna.
• Diana Stoll is the Practice Manager at Red Barn Animal Hospital with locations in Hampshire and Gilberts. Visit redbarnpetvet.com, or call (847) 683-4788 (Hampshire) or (847) 426-1000 (Gilberts).