Halloween is just around the corner and so, if you’ve got pets, you should be aware that there are a few pet emergencies that occur more commonly on and around Halloween.
This night may be a wonderful time for you and your two-legged kids, although ‘All Hallows Eve’ may not be as fun a time for your four-legged ones.
As with most things though, if you’re aware of the potential for these emergencies and take the easy steps provided here, your whole family will be far more likely to have a Halloween full of fun and great memories with friends and family, rather than one full of memories of a night (and a sizable chunk of change) spent in the local Animal ER.
Pets and CostumesDo you like to dress your pets up for Halloween? Many people do. But keep these tips in mind when choosing their costume to keep them safe and out of the ER.
- Avoid loose pieces of fabric and dangling small objects (such as bells). Pets may be tempted to chew off such objects, with resulting digestive upset and/or obstruction. This won’t be comfortable for your pet, and it may ruin your carpets and your bank account, too. (Digestive obstructions typically require surgery and/or endoscopic removal to resolve.) Loose and dangling pieces of costume can also trip up your pet, and they can become entangled on furniture or caught in closing doors, too.
- Avoid masks on pets. Not only are most pets cute enough without them, but many masks can obstruct your pet’s vision and/or their ability to breathe. Few things will distress an animal more than a sudden loss of vision or ability to breathe normally. If your pet can’t see well they’re also at greater risk of traumatic injuries - such as broken bones from stepping in holes or falling off curbs, as well as from being struck by a passing car.
- Are you planning on dyeing your pet’s fur for the evening? Be careful when choosing the dye. Make sure it is safe for your pets — you don’t want it causing skin irritation or an allergic reaction. And you don’t want it causing gastrointestinal upset or toxicity if your pet licks it off either. ‘Pet-safe’ or not, you should always avoid applying such dyes to the area around your pet’s eyes and mouth. Read more about painting or dyeing your pet to make the outcome as safe as possible.
- If you plan on taking your pet with you for the trick-or-treating jaunt around the neighborhood, be sure to include some reflective or self-illuminating material on your pet’s costume. Night visibility on the roads is always lower in the fall. Whatever you can do to increase your pet’s visibility to passing cars will help to ensure that they won’t wind up getting hit by one of them.
Keep them confined or restrainedFor their safety and for that of others, be sure to restrain your pets on this festive evening.
- For pets that will join you trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, keep them on a leash the whole time. Leashes save lives! A leash will not only keep your pet from bolting in front of a passing car, but it will also help you prevent them from eating dropped candy, and other potentially dangerous things from the ground. Leashes also prevent dog fights and keep spooked dogs from running off.
- Keep your cats inside on and around Halloween. Aside from all the normal dangers that outdoor cats face on a daily basis, Halloween (and the even more dangerous ‘Mischief Night’ that precedes it) potentially carry with them the additional dangers of twisted kids (and sadly, adults too) intentionally traumatizing, mutilating, or otherwise torturing cats on these nights. Though such incidences sadly occur throughout the year, there may be an increased risk associated with this holiday. Don’t take the chance – keep ‘em inside.
- The constantly opening doors associated with a barrage of trick-or-treaters also pose a significant danger to pets. Pets with access to opening doors may take advantage of the opportunity to bolt out of the house, not only putting them in danger of the litany of typical outdoor hazards unrestrained pets face, but also of having a paw, tail, or other part of their body caught in the door as they make their ‘Indiana Jones-esque’ dash through the closing door. Such traumatic events can cause injuries significant enough to warrant an expensive orthopedic surgery or a prolonged hospital stay. Some such injuries can even lead to long-term urinary or bowel incontinence for your pet, and some can lead to death (especially if it’s their head or chest that gets crushed in a closing door). Confine your pets to a ‘safe area’ of the house to prevent their access to open doors. Use pet crates, baby gates, or closed doors to do so. Providing them with food, water, litter boxes, and anything else that will be necessary to minimize their stress (perhaps an interactive food toy or a turned on television or radio) will also help to decrease the likelihood of destructive behaviors or loud barking.
- Confining and restraining your pets isn’t just about their safety either. Stressed or otherwise nervous pets are also more likely to bite and scratch, and few things will be as stressful and scary to your pets as a constant stream of loud and excited kids dressed in all manner of costume coming to your front door. So for the sake of the neighborhood children, and your liability insurance premiums, be sure to restrain and confine your pets on Halloween.
Haunted House?Be careful with your pets around the Halloween decorations.
- Fake spider webbing material can lead to obstruction of your pet’s stomach and/or intestines if ingested, requiring an expensive surgical procedure to resolve.
- Spoiling pumpkins can lead to digestive upset in bored, mischievous, or curious pets that eat them. This can lead to an emergency trip to the veterinarian, as well as a big mess to clean out of your carpets. Be sure to clean up your holiday pumpkins before they start rotting on your doorstep.
- If you use real candles to light your jack-o-lanterns, be careful not to let your pets around them. Knocked over candles can cause burns to your pets, and they can lead to a house fire, as well. Try some safer, flameless options.
Stick with the tricks, avoid the treatsNow, you may have gotten to this point wondering… ‘What about the chocolate, isn’t that a common Halloween pet hazard?’ And indeed, you’d be right. Chocolate can be a very real (and common) Halloween pet hazard. I just figured that most resources talking about Halloween pet safety start out with and focus on chocolate and the other food hazards associated with this holiday, I decided to do mine differently. But at last, we have arrived at the section on the Halloween food hazards for pets. And so, without further adieu…
- Chocolate. Everybody’s favorite, and the one that typically leads to the most calls to veterinarians this time of year. As many of you know, chocolate is indeed problematic to cats and dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic, and the smaller the quantity necessary to see effects. For pets with pre-existing heart disease or seizure conditions, the concern is even higher, as these are two of the big ‘target organs’ for the toxic effects of chocolate. So while a few M&Ms isn’t likely to cause a problem for your healthy 80# Labrador, its still a good idea to keep all chocolate safely out of reach of all your pets. And keep in mind that chocolate also has a high fat content, which can lead to digestive upset and pancreatitis in your pets — adding not just insult, but additional injury to injury. More about chocolate poisoning in dogs.
- Xylitol. Sadly, this is one toxin that many dog owners are still unaware of. Shame too, as this is some potent and nasty stuff when ingested by a dog! Even in small quantities, this substance can cause a rapid drop in your dog’s blood sugar level, leading to seizures, collapse, coma, and death. In higher quantities, xylitol can cause liver failure, which is often irreversible and fatal. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gums, mints and other candies, as well as in certain sugar-free baked goods and dental products. Be careful of kid’s candy bags, as well as your purse. Be sure to hang them all well out of reach of your pets. More about xylitol toxicity in dogs.
- Raisin toxicity. Known to be a problem for some dogs (and possibly some cats), raisins may be found in your child’s candy bag as part of certain chocolate bars, and also on their own from well-intentioned neighbors trying to provide healthier Halloween treats. We don’t know which pets will be susceptible to the toxic effects of raisins, nor the number of raisins that must be ingested before problems are seen. So it’s truly best to play it safe and take the necessary precautions to prevent all of your pets from ingesting any quantity of raisins. (Grapes and currants have the same toxic potential as raisins, and so should be similarly avoided.) More about grape, raisin, and currant toxicity in dogs.
- The actual treats in your kid’s Halloween bounty aren’t the only potential problem for your pets either. Ingested candy wrappers can also lead to digestive system inflammation and/or obstruction, resulting in episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as an unplanned trip to the veterinarian, and possibly the surgery table. The plastic bags that hold all the candy also pose a suffocation risk to pets! Keep candy well out of reach of all your pets. Hang your children’s candy bag high-up on a wall hook or coat rack, and don’t leave the trick-or-treat candy you are planning on distributing sitting out on the coffee table while waiting for the neighborhood kids to start arriving.
With a little bit of awareness and forethought, Halloween can indeed be a fun time for the whole family - including your pets. Without such planning though, it can be a very scary time indeed! Here’s to a great — and safe — Halloween for all.