The leaves are starting to turn, there’s a chill in the morning air, and the stores are stocked with all things pumpkin. It’s official—it’s fall. We are glad for the changing weather after the long, hot summer, and we’re especially looking forward to one of our favorite holidays—Halloween. We love seeing our four-legged friends dressed in their Halloween finest, so make our day and drop by our hospital as a dress rehearsal and give us a sneak peek of your pet’s costume.
However, as much as we love Halloween, it is not without its problems, especially for pets. Halloween night can be scary for our four-legged friends, and also dangerous, so we’ve put together a list, “The 3 C’s of Halloween,” to help keep your pets safe on the spookiest night of the year.
Halloween is all about candy, and whether you stay at home and hand it out to trick-or-treaters, or you’re trekking the neighborhood with your children and pets, remember that you must keep the booty out of your pets’ reach.
Cats are more discerning than dogs about snacking on human food, so you can relax more if you have only feline friends. Dogs, on the other hand, are likely to polish off a bucketful of Halloween goodies faster than you can say, “Boo.” This is a scary, because many candies—particularly xylitol, the sugar substitute, and chocolate—are toxic to dogs.
You probably know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but xylitol, which is lurking in many candies and gum in Halloween buckets, is worse. Xylitol is rapidly absorbed after ingested, and produces an exaggerated insulin release in dogs. Because insulin naturally works to lower blood sugar, a small amount of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), and may damage liver cells, which can lead to life-threatening liver failure. If your dog has ingested products containing xylitol, you need to call us right away.
Chocolate may not be as toxic as xylitol, but it can still cause some Halloween troubles, mostly gastrointestinal upset that includes vomiting and diarrhea. Chocolate contains chemicals called methylxanthines, and two in particular, theobromine and caffeine, are toxic to dogs. Dark chocolate has the highest concentration of theobromine and caffeine, and the general rule is, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your dog. Thankfully, most Halloween candy is milk chocolate and will cause only a mild reaction, but if your dog ingests chocolate in any form, let us know so we can decide if he should come in for treatment.
Candy simply is not healthy for pets. Not only can it be dangerous, but also, for a dog, a few pieces of candy can quickly add up to a lot of calories, and with more than half the pet population overweight or obese, every pet owner should be calorie counting, especially during the “howlidays.”
We said we’d love to see your pet in his Halloween costume, so why are costumes on our list? Because not all costumes are appropriate for all pets. First, you must ensure your pet’s costume is a good fit. A costume that is too small may restrict his breathing, while one that is too large may make walking difficult, or obscure his vision. Also, if you know your pet likes to chew things, ensure his costume doesn’t have loose beads, buttons, or strings that are tempting to chew and could be swallowed and become an obstruction.
This “C” can also pose a danger for pets because all the two-legged monsters in costumes and masks look scary and smell different, and may frighten your pet. Fearful pets are more likely to strike out, putting family and visiting ghouls in danger.
Halloween night is mayhem. An oddly dressed family and an incessantly ringing doorbell puts many pets on edge. Fear, combined with an often-open door, can lead your pet to bolt out of the house and get lost. Keeping your four-legged friend tucked safely away in a quiet bedroom or his crate is best; however, in case he does get lost, before Halloween night arrives, ensure he is fully protected by checking that your contact information is up-to-date with your pet’s microchip company or, if your pet is not yet microchipped, call us to schedule an appointment. Microchipping is a quick, virtually painless procedure that permanently identifies your pet and has resulted in many reunions between pets and their owners.
We want you and your pets to enjoy Halloween, but more than that, we want everyone to be safe and sound November 1. If you have any worries or questions about how to make Halloween less spooky for your pet, stop by or call. We can help.