Halloween can be scary for pets: From toxic candy to ill-fitting costumes, it is, well, frightening out there.
“Many of our favorite Halloween traditions pose a potential threat to our companion animals,” says Mindy Bough, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Want to include your pet in the action? Remember these tips:
No sweets. Several popular Halloween treats are toxic to pets, Bough says. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. “Chocolate, especially baker’s and dark chocolate can also be potentially poisonous to animals, especially dogs,” she says. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, heart rhythm abnormalities and even seizures.
Watch out for wrappers. Pets who ingest aluminum foil or cellophane can suffer intestinal blockage and vomiting. One of the first signs of a blockage is vomiting, Bough says, especially after eating or drinking. “This is due to the food not being able to pass normally through the intestinal tract,” she says. Other signs: lethargy, depression, anorexia, abdominal pain, diarrhea and a lack or decrease of bowel movements. Symptoms typically appear within 24 hours for a total blockage. Partial blockages take up to several days.
Take care with dog costumes. If you dress up your dog for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe, bark or drink. Also check the costume for choking hazards. A smart alternative to dressing your pet from head-to-paw if she resists costumes? A simple, festive Halloween bandana. If you’ve already got a great costume for your dog, enter it in our Halloween Costume Contest!
Beware dangerous decorations. Re-think putting candles in carved pumpkins. Pets can easily knock these over and start a fire. Also take care to prevent your pets from having access to wires and cords from holiday decorations. If chewed, a wire can damage your pet’s mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock.
Keep pets home. Trick-or-treating is for kids, not pets. During trick-or-treating hours it is best to keep pets in a room away from your front door. “Be sure that your pet has identification tags should he or she accidentally get loose,” recommends Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Onyx and Breezy Shefts Adoption Center. “Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors constantly arriving at the door, and pets may escape the safety of their home.” Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with tags and/or is microchipped.
Get help. If your dog or cat accidentally ingests any potentially harmful products and you need emergency advice, please consult your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or www.aspca.org/apcc (a fee applies).