Keep Your Cat or Dog Safe This Halloween by Keeping These Potential Problems in Mind
Any time there is more chaos and more strangers around than normal, it’s easier for accidents to happen. Halloween is one of those nights that can set the stage for pet problems. Lots of coming and going, strange foods and candy around the house, and family members who are distracted can all be hazardous to pets. Halloween can be fun for the whole family, including your pet, by keeping a few safety tips in mind.
Be Careful with Pet Halloween Costumes
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dress up your dog in a Halloween costume. (If you like to dress up your cat – stop it. I’ve never seen a cat who didn’t hate wearing a costume.) But costumes can be dangerous, even ones specially designed for dogs.
One of the main reasons pet Halloween costumes can be hazardous is because your dog isn’t used to wearing them. He will still try to move around and do things the way he normally does, without thinking about the safety of his costume. That’s your job.
Dog Halloween costumes can get stuck or snagged on other things or in doors. This can cause part of the costume to constrict a leg, or worse, your dog’s neck. If the costume isn’t comfortable, your dog may bite or chew at the costume and ingest part of it. The costume then becomes a choking hazard or potential intestinal obstruction.
Keep Chocolate Out of Reach
Chocolate is toxic to pets. Keep all candy, and especially chocolate well out of your pet’s reach. If they can get onto tables and counters, you may need to keep it in a closed container. Generally, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are the least likely to cause problems, and dark, or baker’s chocolate are more likely.
How toxic chocolate is to your individual pet varies depending on their weight, how much and what type of chocolate they are, and their overall health. A toxic dose of milk chocolate would be about 1 oz. Per pound of body weight. Yet for baker’s chocolate, the toxic dose is only 1 oz per 9 pounds of body weight. So if you have a small, 10 pound dog or cat, they would need to eat an awful lot of milk chocolate to be at serious risk, but only an ounce or so of baker’s chocolate would be very serious indeed.
If you’re unsure of the amount of chocolate your dog may have eaten, call your vet for advice. They may want you to rush them in to the clinic, or possibly induce vomiting at home. Also, just because your pet eats less than the amounts stated here doesn’t mean they’ll be fine. Any amount of chocolate can cause digestive upset, and in older dogs or dogs with other medical problems, chocolate toxicity can occur at a much lower dose.
Watch Out for Other Halloween Candy Too
Chocolate gets a lot of publicity because it is such a common poison in pets. But other Halloween candy can cause problems. There are a lot of hard candies, or very chewy ones that could be difficult for a dog or cat to swallow, and can be a choking hazard.
Halloween Candy Wrappers Still Smell Yummy.
Candy wrappers, either with candy still inside, or empty ones left laying around, may still smell yummy to a pet. If eaten these wrappers cannot be digested and are at risk of becoming stuck in the stomach or intestines. If this happens, surgery is the only way to remove the wayward Halloween candy wrappers.
Ration Rich or Greasy Party Foods
Candy isn’t the only yummy food around on Halloween. If you host a Halloween party, there may be any number of other fatty or greasy foods around that you’d like to share with your pet. However, many pets, especially as they get older, cannot digest greasy or fatty foods well. Inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, can result from overindulgence.
While you may have the best of intentions, and only give your pet a small treat, it’s very easy at a party for your bet to be blessed with many generous friends, or unattended plates. In our veterinary hospital we see many cases of pancreaititis from owners who swear they only gave their dog a tiny lick of bacon grease. However, later on, after talking with the rest of the family, they fin that everyone offered a similar treat. At a party there are even more hands to offer even more treats.
Trick or Treaters Provide an Escape Route
As Halloween Trick or Treaters ring your bell, you’ll open and close your door dozen, if not hundreds of times on Halloween night. With large groups gathered around the door so frequently, it’s all too easy for a pet to slip outside unnoticed. There’s enough chaos surrounding Halloween that you may not even notice your pet is missing until the following morning, making it tougher to find them again.
Even friendly pets are best closed into a back room until trick or treat time is done. As the following safety tips will show, the outdoor aren’t a safe place for any pet on Halloween night, even if they normally wander the neighborhood without a care on other days.
Traffic is Dangerous to Outdoor Pets
While we tend to think of Halloween as more of a foot traffic holiday, there often is more car traffic through neighborhoods as well. People are going to and from parties, visiting family and friends, or commuting to other neighborhoods for prime trick or treating houses.
Thankfully, many drivers are especially wary, and cautious driving on Halloween night, on the look out for small children in dark costumes. However, most pets are even smaller and harder to see than even a little child. Also, all the people dressed up in potentially frightening costumes may cause a pet to behave erratically. They are more likely to run across the street at the wrong moment, as they try to escape an approaching group of trick or treaters, and don’t notice an oncoming car. That’s why it’s important to confine all pets indoors, even ones who normally roam the streets safely. On Halloween, all rules are off, and the streets are not safe for cats or dogs.
The Streets are Full of Strangers on Halloween Night
I personally believe that the risk of foul play is one of the smallest risks a pet faces on Halloween night, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the possibility at all. As much as we don’t like to imagine someone intentionally wishing harm on a pet, there are people who do. Although there are no good statistics out there for exactly how much additional risk exists for pets at Halloween, most animal welfare organizations and animal shelters take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, and I advise all pet owners to do the same.