In recent years, Halloween seems to have exploded as a source of festivity. Halloween decorations bedazzle homes with the same enthusiasm as Christmas ones, and sometimes, even more. Along with candy displays in local stores come displays of Halloween costumes for both people and pets. And let’s face it, we love to dress up our pets! While all this is great fun, it is important to remember not to do anything in the name of fun and entertainment that will endanger the safety or welfare of your pet. Here are safety tips to keep in mind while gearing up your pet for Halloween.
The first thing we associate with Halloween, of course, is candy and that is a special concern as some candies can be toxic to pets. Chocolate is a big no-no because it contains theobromine, an ingredient that can be toxic to dogs as they are unable to metabolize it. The darker the chocolate the more theobromine so never give your dog any chocolate.
Many candies contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol which is toxic to pets. It can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar resulting in coordination loss and possibly seizures, as well as liver failure. This ingredient is usually found in sugar-free products, but lately has been showing up in many other products not labelled sugar-free. Best to simply avoid the candy.
Hard candies are something your dog can gulp quickly. Not only do many of these contain xylitol, but also, they can clump in the stomach and cause an obstruction. They are also a potential choking hazard.
Not only can the candy, itself, be a hazard, but also the wrappers it comes in. Wrappers, whether foil or cellophane, can become lodged in the throat or intestines requiring surgery to remove them. Best to avoid all those human treats and splurge on special dog or kitty treats instead.
Raisins are another treat that are great for children, but toxic to pets. If your children are given boxes of raisins in their treat bag, be sure they don’t share them with the dog. If your dog does ingest raisins, call your veterinarian immediately as they can cause kidney failure.
While there may be a plethora of costumes on the market for pets, only dress your pet if they enjoy being dressed up. Many pets love the extra attention that comes with dress up, while others loathe it. Make sure you know your pet and don’t force them to wear a costume if they dislike it.
Try the costume on several times before the big day and give your pet the chance to get used to it. Inspect it thoroughly to be sure there are no loose or tiny parts that could come off and become a choking hazard or be swallowed by your pet. Observe your pet closely to make sure the costume does not impede movement, hearing, eyesight, or breathing. Never leave your dog unattended while wearing a costume. Be sure there is adult supervision for children strutting the costumed pet just in case a problem should occur.
Many folks go to great lengths to dress up their pooch creating all sorts of imaginative costumes, some even dying the hair of their pet. If you decide to dye your pet’s hair, be sure to use only dye made specifically for pets. Never use human hair dye on animals.
Glow Sticks, Flashlights, and Candles
Glow sticks are a great way to help keep children safe while trick or treating at night, but they can be extremely harmful if your dog gets them. These little items appear as toys to dogs, but if punctured and ingested, the glowing liquid can cause mouth pain and irritation.
Likewise, flashlights frequently are used to light the way at night. Be sure batteries are kept out of reach of your pet. Ingesting a battery is very serious and will require an emergency trip to the veterinarian and possibly emergency surgery.
Keeping pets away from candles, often used to illuminate carved pumpkins and other Halloween decorations, is of the utmost importance. Wagging tails can easily knock over decorative items causing burns to the pet or even catching your home on fire. Better to be safe than sorry and avoid candles altogether.
Unattended Pets Outdoors
Pranksters can run abound during Halloween. Take extra precautions when leaving your pets unattended in the backyard at Halloween. You don’t want them to become the victims of any teasing or malicious behavior. Black cats and black dogs tend to be particular targets at this time of year.
At Home Pets
While you may not want to dress your dog and take them out, you may decide your dog would enjoy meeting the costumed visitors when they come. If that is the case, make sure you know your dog. Many dogs love company no matter what, while others can be quite frightened by these strangers in costumes and masks. Some pets may try to escape or become aggressive. No one wants a tragedy of any kind. If your pet shows any sign of discomfort or anxiety, place them in a crate or confine them in a room where they won’t see these strange guests.
Never underestimate the power of excitement. If you’re taking your dog out to trick or treat, keep in mind that they will be seeing things to which they are totally unaccustomed. There will be lots of people and lots of noise. Even the most well-adjusted dog can get spooked (pun intended). Be sure your dog is wearing a secure collar and leashed while out and about and make sure they are wearing current identification tags.
At home, even the most social dog can be overwhelmed with the coming and going of visitors. Having a gregarious dog meet visitors is fine; just be sure they don’t accidentally scoot out the door and run off in their enthusiasm to greet people. Again, be sure your dog is wearing current identification tags on their collar. Better yet, have another family member keep the dog on a leash to greet visitors. Then, any visitors that may be uncomfortable with dogs do not have to interact. No one wants to frighten a little goblin that may be afraid of dogs.
Having our dogs included in human festivities and celebrations is one of the great experiences of pet ownership. Keeping them safe and happy while doing so is our responsibility and helps them to live a happier, healthier life.