A Safe Halloween for Your Pets
Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season, a time of year that can be both joyful and stressful for humans. For pet owners, the holidays present some important safety issues. In the second half of October, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital sees a jump in chocolate toxicity cases, the most common Halloween threat to pets. Here are some important safety reminders for protecting your pets this Halloween.
According to Pet Poison Helpline, the most common Halloween hazards for pets involve ingestion of chocolate, raisins, candy and non-food items like candy wrappers and glow sticks.
Tricky Treats: Candy is not for our furry friends.
- Chocolate is a year-round hazard, but it’s most prevalent around the holidays, starting with Halloween. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. Dogs are more likely to eat chocolate than cats, but the risk to both is the same. White chocolate does not contain theobromine, but milk chocolate does, and semisweet/dark chocolate contains the highest concentration. Chocolate can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in pets. If your pet ingests chocolate, inform your veterinarian right away. Let them know your pet’s weight, how much chocolate (in ounces) and what kind (dark, milk, etc.) was ingested.
- Some people prefer to distribute healthy snacks instead of candy on Halloween, such as mini-boxes of raisins. Grapes and raisins are healthy for kids, but extremely poisonous to dogs. Very small amounts of raisins (and grapes) can be life- threatening to dogs (and cats, too, though they are less likely to eat them). Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, and severe kidney failure.
- Macadamia nuts are a mild neurotoxin for dogs. Although the effects are usually temporary (unless a huge amount is ingested) consumption of macadamia nuts often requires a hospital stay and supportive care.
- Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in many products, especially chewing gum and mints. Sometimes taking a week or two for symptoms to develop, pet ingestion of xylitol can affect liver function, causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Whether the effects are immediate or delayed, they can be life-threatening. Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and death.
If you know or suspect that your animal has been exposed to a toxin, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435 immediately! Your pet’s best chance of surviving a poison is prompt treatment.
We don’t have to leave our animal companions out of the Halloween fun. Some treats are OK to offer, as long as we remember that they are treats, not a substitute for a meal. Commercial pet foods are nutritionally complete; anything we add to our pets’ diet throws off the balance in their diet. Portion size is key for safe treating. As a rule of thumb, a treat should be one-fourth the size of your pet’s mouth. A Great Dane’s treat would be a Chihuahua’s meal.
If your pet has a sensitive stomach, you can change the presentation of their regular food to make it a “treat.” Hand-feeding their everyday food one piece at a time can turn everyday kibble into a special treat.
Other safe treats include:
- Boiled rice
- Raw carrots
- Unbuttered popcorn
- Small pieces of lean, boneless meat that has been boiled or baked – but not fried
Pumpkins and decorative corn are relatively non-toxic to our pets, but these and other decorations can cause stomach upset and even intestinal blockages if ingested. Keep decorations away from your pets to avoid a potential foreign body surgery. Also keep decorations that light up out of paws’ reach. Chewing an electrical cord can lead to electrical burns or a life-threatening electrical shock. A lit candle can burn more than the whiskers of the curious; knocked over by a wagging tail, candles endanger both your pet and your home.
It’s almost inconceivable that animal cruelty could be part of anyone’s holiday fun, but Halloween can be a dangerous time for pets. If you have outdoor pets, please keep them in a confined area (e.g., inside your house, garage, or a crate) for a few days before and after Halloween to keep them safe from malicious pranksters.
We love seeing costumed children, but they can be terrifying to our pets. It’s best to keep pets in a crate or room away from the front door to avoid territorial and/or anxious reactions from your pets when you welcome trick-or-treaters. Just in case a pet does get loose, your pet should have a collar with an identification tag, as well as a microchip with your current contact information. This is good advice any time of the year, but if your animal companion does not have an ID tag and/or microchip, now is the time to get them!
Human costumes aren’t the only ones that can frighten animals. Some easygoing animals are happy to be dressed up, but not all pets enjoy it. Please do not put a costume on your pet unless you know your pet does not mind it. If you do dress your pet, it should not constrict your pet’s breathing, movement, vision or hearing. Ill-fitting costumes with dangling accessories can be dangerous.
We hope these reminders will help you and your pets have a safe, happy Halloween. But Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital is available 24/7 for emergency care (360.568.9111) in case you need us.