Halloween is my Christmas. It always has been. Maybe because it’s all about dressing in costumes and candy and less about traveling around and presents. Regardless, this is my favorite time of year and of course it must be Reggie’s too. I get him a costume every year and take his picture and he is wonderfully patient and tolerant and accepts treats for being so even though he does not particularly like wearing clothes. He has been a squirrel, a turtle, and this year a dinosaur. This brings to mind some Halloween safety tips for our pets. Just because it’s our favorite holiday does not make it theirs.
Tip #1- Candy
Chocolate, artificially sweetened items, and pennies. Heck- anything in that bag does not belong to Fluffy. The toxic ingredient in chocolate is called theobromine; caffeine is also present and toxic but in much smaller amounts. And yes different types of chocolate can be and are toxic because they have different amounts of theobromine in them. From the Merck Veterinary Manual, dry cocoa powder has the highest, then unsweetened (baker’s chocolate), semi-sweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate has the least amount of theobromine.
Sweetened items generally contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. In dogs, xylitol ingestion causes a rapid hypoglycemic reaction and can lead to seizures, coma, and death.
When I was a kid, people sometimes gave you change. Pennies. If this still happens, keep them away from the dog. Pennies are 99% zinc and if ingested can dissolve and enter the bloodstream and affect the kidneys.
Tip #2- Costumes
As I already mentioned, Reggie is tolerant of costumes and picture taking knowing that there are treats involved. But he is not a fan of clothes- costumes, sweaters, Thundershirt…..he shuts down. If your dog is like this, or fights you, or acts distressed or acts in any negative way then take the cue and don’t force them to wear the costume out trick-or-treating or for 3 hours while you hand out candy, etc.
When kids come to the door dressed in a variety of costumes and screaming “trick-or-treat!” this can be scary or exciting for a dog. Scary for the shy dog afraid of the screaming and the costumes. Exciting for the dog that loves the front door opening and the people! Depending on your dog breed and personality, beware that your guard dog doesn’t become protective and lunge or bite at the myriad of people at the door or your frightened dog doesn’t become afraid and dart out the door and run away.
Tip #3- Decorations
Pumpkins, hay, cornstalks, spiderwebs, candles…all the Halloween fun! Just like at any holiday and with any pet, take care that your pet doesn’t eat any of your decorations. Any decoration with a candle in it can get knocked over and start a fire. Any decoration with a power cord could get chewed and cause an electrical shock. Pumpkins and decorative corn in cornstalks are considered non-toxic but have been shown to cause stomach upset according to the ASPCA’s website.
Tip #4- Outdoors
Even if you have a fenced in yard, never leave your pet unsupervised around or on Halloween. It is unfortunate, but there are pranksters who will play cruel jokes on animals during this time, particularly black cats. Make sure ID tags are on your pets in case they get out or you take them out whether or not they are in costume.
A few commonsense items keep all our pets healthy, happy and safe during this time. What are your Halloween tips or great costumes? Please share!