Halloween has become a holiday to celebrate not only with your children and friends but with your pets, as well. Many owners look forward to dressing up their pets and greeting trick-or-treaters at the front door with their four-legged family members right there to help.
To keep your pets as safe as possible this spooky season, there are a few things you should keep in mind, whether you plan to include your pets in your Halloween celebrations or allow them to wait out the festivities in their own space. Dr. Jennifer Coval, one of Countryside’s small animal practitioners, has few tips to help you keep Halloween safe and festive when you have pets to consider.
Unfettered access to tasty treats is so much fun one day a year — for humans, that is. When pets get into candy, the health risks can be significant. Chocolate is the main concern as it can cause fatal complications for dogs, Coval says. The smaller the dog, the more dangerous chocolate consumption can be. She recommends purchasing treats made from milk chocolate if there are going to be pets around. Milk chocolate is still not safe to feed to pets, but the theobromine levels are lower than, say, baking chocolate, so if your dog does happen to ingest it, the effects won’t be as severe, she explains.
So, how should you react if you do happen upon a bunch of chewed-up chocolate wrappers? Chocolate causes a dog’s heart rate to increase, Coval says, and she cautions owners to watch their pets for vomiting or diarrhea if they suspect chocolate has been consumed. These factors, along with agitation or over-excited behavior are reason enough to get your dog to an emergency clinic, she says.
On that note, it’s a great idea to always have the number of the nearest emergency facility handy or to determine whether your small animal vet has an after-hours practitioner on call.
Another substance that can cause issues for dogs is xylitol, the plant extract in most chewing gum, Coval says. There’s a significant danger of toxicity for dogs, so call the vet if you suspect your dog has gotten into gum in the Halloween candy basket. Also, sugar in general isn’t great for cats or dogs, Coval says, so to prevent an abrupt end to a fun evening, just make sure that candy container is well out of all pets’ reach.
People love to get into the Halloween spirit, and doing so often requires low lighting. What could be more perfect to achieve that effect than a few lit candles throughout the house?
This practice sometimes doesn’t mix well with pets, though, Coval says. If you’re going to light candles, make sure to supervise your cat or dog around them. A swishing tail and an upended candle could mean injury from a hot flame or wax, and your property could be seriously damaged.
Costumes and the front door
If you choose to dress your pet up to celebrate the holiday, choose a getup that’s appropriate for the individual, Coval advises.
“I think most are probably fine,” she says.
At the same time, you’ll need to make sure that the costume is comfortable for your dog or cat and that they can easily walk around in it or use the bathroom.
If you’re going to let your pet roam the house while you’re answering the door for trick-or-treaters, it’s important to know their personality, Coval says. If they become agitated around new people, or if the front door gets them overly excited every time it rings, it may be a good idea to let them relax in their own space, whether that’s a back room where they can safely be alone or a kennel out of earshot of what’s happening at the entrance to the house.
Also, consider how much of a risk excessively opening and closing the front door poses for your pet, Coval says. If they are prone to trying to escape, this may be the time to draw the line and have them wait safely for you until the festivities are over. This is also a good time of year to make sure your pet is microchipped, she says. Most veterinarians can install the chips, and it’s a quick and relatively painless procedure. A lot of clinics, including Countryside, have chip readers, so the cost of this procedure — usually around $50 — makes the peace of mind worth it if your pet does happen to escape the safe confines of your home.
Halloween can be a time for you and your pet to bond as you welcome trick-or-treaters at the front door. Taking a few precautions ahead of time can help you avoid any mishaps with your dog or cat and ensure that this holiday stays a fun memory when it’s over.
Post by Liz Crumbly