ANIMAL BYTES: Halloween Safety Tips

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By STEPHANIE OBA, DVM

HalANIMAL-BYTES-LOGOloween is rapidly approaching. While it is a fun holiday for us, it may be scary for your pet.

My pet wants some of my treats. Can I give them to him/her?

Many dogs and cats love candy as much as we do. Most candies will give them a bad stomach ache. However, there are some treats that are toxic to pets. Chocolate is a poison to pets. Keep all your chocolate treats in an area they cannot get into.

If your pet does accidentally eat chocolate, call your veterinarian or an emergency pet hospital immediately. They may need to induce vomiting and give her/him activated charcoal to soak up the toxin.

Some treats also contain xylitol. This is an artificial sweetener in many sugar free candies. However, if your pet eats enough of it, it can cause a dangerously low blood sugar level. If your pet eats xylitol, call your veterinarian or an emergency hospital immediately.

These toxicities can cause death if you wait too long for treatment.  Instead of sharing your bounty with your pet, offer a pet treat for them instead.

Will a costume scare my pet?

Many dogs and cats are scared of the costumes that appear during Halloween. Some fearful cats may just hide. However, some cats and dogs will bolt outside.

Make sure your house is secure. If necessary, keep your pet in a room with a closed door so he/she will not inadvertently slip outside during the trick-or-treating commotion. Also make sure that your pet has up-to-date identification. A sturdy collar and microchip are highly recommended for pets.

Some people like to take their dogs out trick-or-treating with the family. Please make sure your dog is comfortable with this. There is a lot more activity and the costumes can frighten a pet. Your pet may know your next-door neighbor well, but when he’s in a Darth Vader costume, your pet will not know who he is.

Some pets may even bite when frightened or approached by something unusual (like a costume). Your pet may be happier waiting for you at home.

Can I dress up my pet?

Some people even like to dress up their pets during the holidays. This can be a fun time to bond with your pet. Please make sure your pet is enjoying this. Some training may need to be involved prior to the big night. If they are not used to having booties, capes, or head pieces then you will need to gradually get them used to wearing these.

If your pet panics, do not put costumes on your pet. In many cases, you can put on part of a costume, but you may need to skip out of the head piece if they are head shy or the booties if they don’t like wraps on their feet.

Also be sure that the costume does not restrict movement, hearing, or vision. If you are going out after dark, it is a good idea to have something reflective or a light so that your pet is visible in the dark.

Are Halloween decorations hazardous?

Make sure to keep decorations away from the chewing mouths of cats and dogs. Cats love string and dogs will chew on anything they can. Many pets are attracted to the decorations and eat them, leading to a foreign-body obstruction and the need for emergency surgery.

Keep electric cords and Jack-o-lantern candles (and any other flammable items) out of reach of your pets. Pets can easily chew on an electric cord or knock a flammable item over and cause an accidental fire.

Dr. Stephanie Oba is a contributing writer and animal physician working at a non-profit rescue organization in San Diego. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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