NJ veterinarian: 6 dangerous Halloween risks for your pets
🐶 Pets can get into a lot of trouble during the Halloween season
🐱 One NJ offers safety tips regarding candy, costumes, decorations, and more
🐶 It's important to call your vet immediately if the animal ingests something toxic
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s important for dog and cat parents to take as many precautions as possible to protect them. According to The American Kennel Club, calls to poison control usually increase by 12% during this holiday season.
Between candy, decorations, and costumes, there are many things around that can be potentially toxic for our four-legged furballs.
Dr. Linda Marie Pedro, Associate Veterinarian at Murray Hill Veterinary Associates in New Providence, New Jersey has offered some great tips to keep our pets safe this Halloween season.
Pets can get into a lot of trouble if they have access to candy treat bags, she said. Chocolate, gum, and raisins are the toxicities most often seen in a trick-or-treater’s stash. The important thing is to look out for telltale signs of ingestion and to call your local vet or poison control center immediately.
Chocolate ingestion depends on the breed of dog and type of chocolate, Pedro said. For example, if a 100-pound dog eats a Snickers bar, it’s unlikely there will be a problem. But if a Maltese eats a few Hershey kisses or a small piece of dark chocolate, there could be a lot of bad side effects within the first half hour or 45 minutes of ingestion, Pedro said.
Signs of chocolate ingestion include vomiting, severe diarrhea, panting, restlessness, agitation, tremors, seizures, and an increase in heart rate because the animal’s whole system gets thrown out of whack due to the amount of caffeine, she added.
Most of the time if there is a problem, a pet parent will be able to see it very quickly or within a few hours of ingestion. But those symptoms can go from fairly mild to severe pretty fast so getting the animal to a vet immediately is crucial.
With sugar-free candies and gum, the compound Xylitol is the problem. Pedro said this is a sugar-free substitute that makes the body think it’s had an overdose of sugar ingestion.
“If dogs ingest this, the body releases a lot of insulin, their blood sugars drop dangerously low, and they can have seizure events. These can cause fatal hypoglycemia and can cause a lot of trouble for these guys very quickly within a half hour, 45 minutes, or up to an hour after ingestion,” Pedro said.
She suggests not keeping sugar-free candies and gum in the house and if they are in trick-or-treat baskets to keep them as far away from pets as possible.
With candy ingestion, sometimes it’s not even about the compounds that the dog may be eating. She said if they eat something like a Starburst, that’s not going to cause a huge issue, perhaps just a little indigestion.
But, if they eat a whole bag of Starburst, she said that will cause a big ball in the stomach that can take a long time to break down, causing the ball to get stuck in the stomach preventing stuff from passing through the body or even coming back up.
When planning your pet’s Halloween costume, Pedro said the big things you want to consider are fit and comfort.
The good news is that many dog and cat costumes are tailored specifically to fit them, Pedro said. They are cut appropriately so they are not compressing anything with the chest, they are not causing any pressure on the belly, and they are not going to get in the way if the dog or cat sits or squats.
But there are some costumes out there that don’t fit properly and may be hard to remove, causing the animal discomfort, pain, or stress. So, be careful when purchasing pet costumes, she said.
With cats, avoid costumes that have small pieces of fabric and string that are easy to ingest. The string can get stuck in their GI tracts, which in turn can become a huge problem later, she said.
If you decide to take your dog out trick-or-treating with the family on Halloween, Pedro said it’s important to be a responsible pet owner and know what triggers stress for your pet. If you have a dog who loves to be outside, loves to be around people, loves children, and enjoys being petted, then there’s not much to worry about when it comes to their general temperament.
“But if you feel like you have to medicate your pup to be able to take it on a walk during Halloween, you probably shouldn’t be going,” Pedro said.
If you are taking a pup out, have it on a short leash and close to you. Make sure you train the humans around you. If, for example, a child comes up and wants to pet the animal, politely tell the child to wait, then put the pup in a “sit” position so it���s now calm. If the animal is in a situation that it’s not used to, even if it’s with children who simply want to pet it, that can be stressful for them, Pedro said.
Be sure your pet is either microchipped or has proper identification tags on it. That way if they get run off or get lost during the hustle and bustle and in the crowd of trick-or-treaters, it has a better chance of being found, identified, and returned to its rightful owner, she said.
If the dog is going to be home during trick-or-treating hours, and has a reaction to doorbells ringing, Pedro suggested putting the dog in another part of the house and distracting the animal with the TV or radio on so they don’t react to the doorbell. A better idea is to put a sign outside your front door asking trick-or-treaters to knock instead.
Pets love to eat things they are not supposed to eat, Pedro said. So, while you’re out trick-or-treating, be aware of any small decorative lawn items. Keep glow sticks out of a pet’s reach.
Steer them clear of fog machines that might be part of a house’s Halloween decoration display. Pedro said fog machines can cause irritation to their eyes, face, and upper airway tract.
Lit candles are something to avoid for obvious reasons.
Be aware of rotting pumpkins. While canned and fresh pumpkin is a great treat, a good source of fiber for a dog, and used for a little TLC for their gut, a rotting pumpkin can upset a dog’s stomach. Make sure to remove rotting pumpkins from the home and pumpkin rind can obstruct your pet’s digestive tract.
Always talk to your vet about possible Halloween stresses concerning your pet. Pedro said just like fireworks which can often cause stress and fright for an animal, it may not be a bad idea to ask the vet for a little sedation to keep the pet relaxed and calm on Halloween.
New Jersey dogs get into the Halloween spirit
Gallery Credit: Steve Trevelise