By Dr. Bruce Little
Halloween is almost here! While Halloween is a joyous and thrilling time of year for us, it can create a lot of stress and anxiety for our pets. The constant doorbell ringing and strangely dressed people, with lots of scary costumes and elevated and unusual noises, can stress out many dogs and cats. It’s not unusual for pets, especially dogs, to exhibit physical signs of stress through vomiting, diarrhea, barking and unexpected fearful aggression. Some will even bite when stressed. Cats may also vomit or have diarrhea although they are more likely to run and hide.
Veterinarians treat more dogs during this time than usual. These costly and unwelcome visits to the animal hospital emergency room can be lessened if a few precautions are put in place prior to the this holiday.
Here are some Halloween safety tips for your pets:
- Keep them indoors. Halloween pranks can be vicious, especially if you have a black cat. Keep pets in a quiet room with music and a toy, away from activities of the trick or treaters. A synthetic hormone product called Feliway can be sprayed on the pets and around the room to help relieve their anxiety. You might also provide your pets with a long-lasting, treat-dispensing toy to keep them entertained during the height of the trick-or-treat activities. You can buy these products at most pet supply stores. For pets with severe anxiety levels, it may be necessary to consult your veterinarian about anti-anxiety or tranquilizing medications. Visit your veterinarian before the festivities begin to maximize the effects of calming medications.
- Watch them closely. Be careful that your pet does not dart out the door when trick or treaters appear.
- Be sure they have proper identification. In case they do escape the confides of the house, a permanent, implanted microchip and inclusion into the lost pet registry is best. Collars with identification will work too.
- Don’t take your dog trick or treating. Dogs inside the house you visit may be protective of their territory and charge out of the house to fight with a visiting dog. It’s difficult to break up a dog fight under any circumstances, and almost impossible when dressed in costumes and masks.
- Keep candles out of reach. An overturned candle can burn a pet’s nose, or even start a fire by catching on papers or curtains. The vapors off a candle may harm pet birds.
- Don’t let pets have candy. Both the candy and wrappers can be a threat to your pet’s health. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Candy may contain the artificial sweetener, xylitol, which is toxic to dogs and cats. Baked products that contain raisins, currents, grapes and chocolate can result in kidney failure in dogs. Click here for more on foods that are toxic to pets. Candy wrappers and popsicle sticks are often the cause of intestinal blockage that may require surgery to remove. Dogs cannot unwrap candy, so they eat it wrapper and all. Aluminum foil especially can cause severe intestinal blockage.
- Keep drugs and alcohol out of reach. It’s never a good idea to allow dogs to access marijuana or baked goods that include marijuana. With the recent legalization of marijuana in many states, the incidence of marijuana toxicity has increased significantly in those areas. Also, alcohol left in glasses or other containers can be toxic to dogs and cats. Keep these substances out of the pet’s reach. If you think your pet may have ingested a toxic substance, call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Line at (888) 426-4435
- Watch out for garbage. Don’t allow your dog to access garbage containers. Spoiled food containing bacteria and toxic substances such as coffee grounds and chocolate can make them sick. If you suspect your dog has gotten into a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian immediately, as well as the Pet Poison Helpline. Find a veterinarian here.
- Dress them in safe costumes. If you dress your pet in a Halloween costume, be sure that it doesn’t interfere with the pet’s ability to breathe, see, hear, move or bark. Strings and tassels on costumes can become play toys for cats and puppies. These costumes can become hazardous to your pet if not managed properly. Cats especially like to chew on these items and they can absorb the dyes in the cloth or swallow the material causing intestinal blockage. Glow sticks, if chewed through, can be caustic and burn your pet’s mouth. It’s important to keep these items out of reach of your pets.
Halloween can be a fun and enjoyable time for all family members, including pets, if certain precautions are taken. Plan and take necessary precautions to protect your pets from the hazards of Halloween. Your pets will appreciate it if stress is minimized!
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