Halloween is so close, I can almost taste the chocolate, caramel apples, and pumpkin pie. Now is the time to make your mad dash to get your costume together, as well as your pets’ costumes! It is also a good time to take final safety precautions, and plan your Halloween so that your pets are not affected negatively by the day’s festivities. Here’s a list of possible hazards that could perhaps put a damper on your holiday spirit:
- Chocolate – Obviously this is the number one concern, especially if you have a particularly curious pet that wants to find and eat everything they can at all times. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that chocolate is a huge no-no for dogs, and is quite toxic to them. While it can be somewhat less dangerous in small amounts, the huge amount of chocolate that people have on hand for trick-or-treaters on Halloween make it a very high priority of concern. Do *NOT* leave a bowl of chocolate candy unattended – even though the candies are wrapped, that does *NOT* stop the most determined dogs! If they do somehow get into the candy stash and eat a piece or two, they will probably be okay – but they’ll most likely throw up. If they eat several pieces, this is a very serious matter and they should be taken to the vet immediately.
- Other Candy/Treats – Even if a piece of candy isn’t chocolate, it can still be dangerous to your pet! Sugary treats of *ANY* kind are dangerous to animals, since they are *NOT* supposed to ingest unnecessary sugar. The limit to a pet’s sugar intake is pretty much the naturally-occurring sugar that is in fruits and vegetables. Anything outside of that is harmful and can easily cause nausea, vomiting, and hyperactivity. This can easily make an already hectic holiday even more stressful! Especially if you take your dog with you when you go outside, there will be all kinds of treats on the ground that your dog shouldn’t be eating! In the long-term, if your dog keeps getting into sugary treats, they can be victims of obesity, dental problems, and diabetes.
- Candles – If you have candles or votives as part of your decorations, make sure the lighted candles are out of “tail range”. Although most candles on Halloween are used to light up the inside of a pumpkin, that doesn’t mean it’s completely free of danger! A swiping dog tail could easily knock a candle over, and a very excited pup can roll over a pumpkin, sending the candle flying and lighting everything in its path. Even an agile cat sashaying by a lighted candle might get a burnt tail, or freak out and accidentally bump a candleabra into your curtains, rug, or decorative spider web! Those classic spider webs that people commonly adorn their house with are extremely flammable! To be safe, just use LED or bulb candles and then you don’t have to worry about your pets possibly burning your house down.
- Electric Decorations – Usually electronic decorations are safe for your pets, but if you have a pet that enjoys chewing random things, they could possibly hurt themselves. They could chew the decoration itself, or the cord, which are both extremely dangerous! Even if they don’t like to chew, they could possibly be running around and get snagged on a cord, knocking a bunch of breakable/hazardous stuff over and hurt themselves. A worst case scenario would even involve your pet accidentally being tangled in the cord and either hurting themselves due to becoming frantic, or possibly strangling themselves. Again, as long as you are monitoring your pet and taking proper precautions, this is very unlikely to happen – but it is possible!
- Other Decorations – Halloween decorations often consist of farm items such as corn stalks, hay bales, pumpkins, and Indian corn. After the holiday, non moldy corn stalks, hay and pumpkins can be fed to your horses, goats and other barn animals. Ear corn can also be safely fed to those animals, but beware of Indian corn around your dog! A dog who chews on dried corn cobs can usually pass any dried corn kernels without much trouble. However, chewed up pieces of corncob are another story! These often become stuck partway through the intestines, causing bowel obstruction and requiring surgery. Dogs with a piece of corncob stuck may vomit, have diarrhea, or alternatively strain without passing stool and generally lose their appetite. If your dog has chewed on any corncobs, observe him carefully and don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if you notice any changes in his behavior or health.
- Trick-Or-Treaters – Visits from trick-or-treaters can be fun and exciting, but most pets are better off skipping the whole scene. Setting your dog or cat up with a quiet space in a room away from the front door is ideal (perhaps with an OTC anxiety remedy), so that they aren’t flipping out every time they hear a doorbell or knocking sound. Even a very social dog may get overwhelmed with all of the “intruders”, especially with some of the wild costumes. Although your dog may “love everyone”, they may become stressed out and perhaps growl and/or snap at children, which would not lead to any positive outcome. Many cats will hide when the excitement starts, so it’s best if they are in a safe space where you know their location. Since you’ll be opening and closing the door pretty frequently while handing out candy, you won’t know if your cat slipped through the door among all the commotion. A frightened pet could easily get lost or hurt in the confusion of the holiday, so it’s best to have them in a different room, or behind a gate!
- Cruel People – Sadly, cats have an undeserved bad reputation that often pops up around Halloween. This is especially true of black cats, and it usually extends to black dogs as well! Many people still believe the superstition that they are “bad luck” and they will hurt or kill black cats/dogs if they think they are “evil.” Keep your cats and dogs inside and safe from harm a day or two before Halloween to a couple days after. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Besides people harming animals, they may also want to steal people’s animals as well; so take extra care that your pets don’t escape while children, teens, and families are all out and about trick-or-treating!
- Costumes and Makeup – This goes for your costume as well as your pets’ costumes! Anything with small pieces that can present a possible choking hazard to your pet should be avoided or secured safely onto your costume. Any hanging elements that can be grabbed and eaten are definitely discouraged as well. As far as any makeup is concerned, try to use non-toxic makeup in case your pet decides to lick some of it off of your face or body. If you are using makeup that isn’t non-toxic, do *NOT* have the area with makeup on it in the reach of your pet’s face! Also make sure that the makeup itself is *NOT* left out on the table, counter, or floor – your pet could accidentally eat it and become very sick or perhaps die depending on how toxic the makeup is.
- Leftover Candy – Once the excitement of Halloween night is over, you still need to be vigilant about leftover candy. Cats are generally not into raiding candy bags or chocolate treats, but dogs often will. Chocolate toxicity in dogs is due to the caffeine and theobromine contained in the cocoa. These ingredients are stimulants and may cause heart problems in your dog. Small amounts may cause panting, excitement and anxiety, but large amounts can cause heart arrhythmias and even death. If your dog has made a candy raid, try to estimate how much chocolate he took in. Call your veterinarian for guidance, even if your dog is acting fine at the moment.
- Treat Bags – If your pet gets hold of a treat bag, they could possibly hurt themselves in many different ways. If there is a wrapper that has a bit of chocolate on it, an animal can eat the wrapper itself – same goes for treat bags that may have melted chocolate on it. Plastic in any shape or form can either present a choking hazard to your pet, or cause a horrible bowel obstruction that may require surgery to prevent further complications. If your pet is trying to get candy or chocolate out of the bottom of a treat bag, they could get their head stuck in it and suffocate. Do *NOT* leave treat bags, trick-or-treating bags, or any other type of plastic material around that could pose these dangers to your pet!
With some care and preparation, Halloween can be a safe holiday for your four-legged companions. You’ll most likely *NOT* have these horribly dangerous and/or fatal scenarios play out, but freak accidents do happen! Chaos happens when a bunch of people are all out together, and Halloween is a great example of that. Add animals to the mix, repeated doorbells and knocking, strange costumes, scary and loud noises, endless amounts of candy – and you have yourself a bunch of different dangers to be wary of. As long as you follow this list, and watch your pets closely, you’ll be okay. If you are too afraid to even take the chance, then turn off your light and pretend you aren’t home.