Halloween can be a mixed bag of fun and fright for pets—some will bask in sweet memories, while others get trapped in a living nightmare. Show your pet they have nothing to fear this Halloween with these four Village Veterinary Hospital tips.
#1: Mixed bag—keep dangerous candies away from pets
Without fail, every October, small colorful candies appear on every surface, in every dish, pocket, purse, work bag, and hand, and, like humans, pets can’t resist tasting and playing with these tiny delights. The sweet smell and bright wrappers attract dogs and cats, and while we humans console ourselves by saying “one can’t hurt,” this, sadly, does not apply to our pets.
Candy ingestion—including merely one or two pieces—can set pets up for numerous health disasters, including:
- Toxicity — Many popular candy ingredients and Halloween favorites are toxic for dogs and cats and can trigger a range of serious—sometimes life-threatening—side effects. Common Halloween toxins include:
- Chocolate — Chocolate contains stimulant-like ingredients that cause heart, nervous, and gastrointestinal system problems. Although dark, bitter chocolate is the most concentrated and therefore the most toxic, all chocolate should be considered dangerous.
- Sugar-free xylitol — Xylitol is a natural sweetener and a popular sugar substitute often found in sugar-free gum, candy, mints, and snack foods. Xylitol ingestion in dogs triggers rapid low blood sugar and can cause acute liver failure.
- Raisins and grapes — Although the cause is unclear, eating raisins and grapes in any amount can cause acute kidney failure in sensitive dogs.
- Macadamia nuts — These high-fat nuts can trigger painful pancreatitis or unusual neuromuscular signs, including tremors, weakness, and temporary hind limb mobility loss.
- Gastrointestinal obstruction — Exuberant dogs may swallow candy while still in the wrapper, while cats may play with tape, string, or foil, and accidentally consume small pieces. These non-food items then get stuck in the intestines and require life-saving surgical removal.
- Gastroenteritis — Candy’s high sugar and fat content irritates a pet’s gastrointestinal tract and may lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Pancreatitis — The pancreas is an organ that doesn’t like change, and excess sugar and fat intake creates dangerous pancreatic inflammation and severe illness that requires hospitalization to treat the pet’s pain and dehydration.
Minimize your pet’s risk for these Halloween horrors by keeping all candy in closed containers and stored out of reach. Because pets often find candy hidden in children’s bedrooms, instruct your two-footed goblins to enjoy their tiny treasures at the kitchen table and store leftovers in a safe place.
If your pet does consume Halloween candy, contact Village Veterinary Hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline for instructions.
#2: Ghosted—prevent pet escape
Between trick-or-treaters and other visitors, your front door sees a lot of Halloween action. Curious pets often see the open door as an opportunity for adventure, while frightened or anxious pets see an escape route. Unfortunately, Halloween is the second most common holiday for missing pets—so taking protective measures to keep your pet safe is essential.
Ensure your pet wears a well-fitted collar or harness with current information on their identification tags, and that their microchip is registered and up-to-date with the manufacturer’s registry. If your pet isn’t microchipped, schedule an appointment at Village Veterinary Hospital.
No matter how friendly your pets, during busy times, keep them confined or restricted (e.g., leashed, or behind a barrier such as a comfortable crate, pen, or secure pet gate) to prevent accidental escape. If your pet is nervous or anxious, confine them to a quiet room until the excitement is over.
#3: See ya next fall—check your pet’s costume for hazards
While some pets are good sports about dressing up, others find clothing and accessories threatening and restrictive. Respect your pet’s preferences about costumes—if your pet appears stressed or anxious (e.g., excessive panting, refusing to move, attempting to remove the garment), select a festive collar or bow.
Inspect all costumes and accessories for hazards, including:
- Improper fit — Loose garments can entrap your pet’s limbs, causing a fall and potential injury. Tight costumes may restrict normal movement or breathing, causing apprehension and distress.
- Detachable decorations — Dangling accessories may look like small toys and be chewed on or swallowed.
- Poor visibility — Slouchy hats, hoods, and glasses make cute photo-ops, but impaired vision can cause pets to panic or fall.
#4: Plastic fangs only—prevent pet bites
Halloween festivities create the perfect recipe for pet-related injuries. Unfamiliar people and children, costumes, strange sounds, and reduced visibility can cause the friendliest pets to become anxious or fearful and react out of self-defense. Prevent pet bites and scratches by observing your pet’s behavior at all times and avoiding difficult social situations. If your pet’s body language conveys stress or anxiety, politely remove them from the situation, and give them a break. Common dog and cat stress signs include:
- Excessive panting
- Dilated pupils
- Raised hackles
- Pinned ears
- Wrinkled forehead
- Low or crouched posture
- Tense or stiff body
Halloween should be a safe and enjoyable experience for the whole family—including your pet. Protect your dog or cat from these common Halloween hazards and create a night everyone will remember—for all the right reasons. Contact Village Veterinary Hospital for additional anxiety-reducing tips, or to schedule your pet’s microchip appointment.