Happy Howl-O-Ween! Tonight is a lot of fun for people, but filled with some unique hazards for our beloved pets. This post will have a handy checklist of some of the scariest things to worry about for your dog (or cat) on Halloween and what to do about it if it comes up.
Not every dog loves Halloween. It’s sad, but true. For some, it’s nothing but a great time with snacks, excitement and friendly strangers, but for others? A nightmare of anxiety, potential hazards, opportunities to escape, and scary people wearing frightening costumes that make them look even scarier.
KNOW YOUR DOG. And take the appropriate precautions to give them the kind of safe, comfortable evening they need. If this means kennel time away from the action, that’s what it means… if that means a Thundershirt and some anti-anxiety meds, that’s ok too. Remember there are going to be lots of doors and gates left open, lots of strangers around – some of whom are guaranteed to NOT be dog savvy- and lots of chances for things to go wrong. When in doubt, error on the side of caution.
Not every dog needs this kind of care. Some just get over-excited, but are happy with the whole thing. This can be a great once-in-a-year” kind of training opportunity, if you use it as such. Here’s a list of good things you can work on:
- Leave It
- Sit and Stay
- Doorbell Desensitization
- Greet Strangers
- Trick Training – If you’ve never looked into clicker training, you might want to look into it. It’s positive reinforcement based and especially effective for dogs why are sensitive to negative corrections – like borzois and other sighthounds.
Whatever you do, do NOT leave your dog outside in the yard! Some dogs can find this highly agitating, and the opportunity for human mischief-makers to cause trouble is very high. Whether or not they mean harm, it’s safer to keep your pet out of harms way – then you don’t have to worry about accidental poisoning, theft, teasing, or other unfortunate things. Also, please remember that there’s one thing every pet should wear on Halloween night – something more crucial than any costume – their ID! Make sure every pet has current ID… and is wearing it!
Oh, there are SO many delicious things out there for pets to get a hold of! Some are perfectly fine, many are fine – in moderation – (key word here : MODERATION. Dogs aren’t good with moderation!). Many things are flat out poisonous and dangerous for pets to ingest. Here’s a rundown on the main offenders:
- Chocolate: Yes, we all know how bad this one is, but did you know that the darker the chocolate, the greater the danger? It only takes 1 oz of dark baking chocolate to sicken a 50 lb dog, but with milk chocolate it could take up to 8 oz. Play it safe… keep ALL chocolate out of reach. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated heart rate, and in severe cases, seizures. This is a medical emergency. If you believe your dog has ingested chocolate, get to the vet right away!
- Chocolate Covered Raisins: These tasty treats pass as semi-healthy (at least that’s what my sister says!) for people, but are double deadly for dogs. In addition to chocolate, which we all know about, raisins are their own kind of bad. Like all grape products, raisins cause kidney failure. Vomiting, diarrhea and seizures result from ingestion. If you suspect your pet has ingested chocolate covered raisins, don’t wait… get to the vet!
- Xylitol: One of the newer sugar-free sweeteners, xylitol most commonly found in sugar-free products like gum and breath mints, but it’s starting to crop up in unexpected places. The scariest? Peanut butter! That’s right – watch out for this very deadly additive in anything with peanut butter, especially “reduced calorie” items. Xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, but deadly for dogs and cats in very small doses. It works it’s lethal one-two punch by first lowering the animals blood sugar to dangerous levels and liver failure. Symptoms appear within minutes of ingestion – and they are severe. Expect trouble standing, seizures, and lethargy. If you even suspect your pet has eaten your mints or gum with xylitol, do NOT wait. This is a life threatening situation! With treatment, your pet may pull through, but many suffer permanent liver damage. As far as it’s appearance in peanut butter? I can’t speak for anyone else, but no peanut butter comes into my house unless I have personally checked the label myself.
- Empty Candy Wrappers: You’d be surprised at some of the things dogs will eat… or, maybe not. To us, a big wad of empty wrappers isn’t appealing in the slightest, but some dogs just can’t resist. Wrappers still smell yummy, but they don’t digest, and can cause a wad that can bloat the tummy or cause an intestinal impaction. Better to just keep them like a mummy… under “wraps!” (Ok, ok… at least *I* think I’m funny!)
- Sugar-Based Candies: Candy corn is kind of controversial among humans, but few dogs will debate, or even think twice before gobbling it down… and this can be a big, BIG mistake. While not usually fatal, sugary candies can wreak havoc on a dog’s insulin system, pancreas and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and horrible HORRIBLE gas. Seriously. Keep this out of reach.
- Hard candies: Choking hazard or inhalation hazard. Enough said.
…And “Weird Stuff” Eaters!
In addition to candy, pets have lots of other things they can ingest over the holiday that are NOT good for them. Beads, pumpkins, corn, foil, glow sticks, candles, fake grass, “Hawaiian” leis and skirts… you name it, it’s out there and available to play with or eat. Some of these things are dangerous on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to call your vet, or a poison control hotline. Halloween is a busy night for the hotlines. They’ll be staffed, but you may have to wait.
Numbers for Help:
Pet Poison Helpline 1-800-213-6680. In order to provide this critical service, please be advised that they charge a $59 per incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case. http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com
Remember: It’s always, Always, ALWAYS better to have prepared and prevented the problem than to try to do damage control later. Be safe, have fun, and help your pets have the best night that they can!
-C.T. (Chelle) Griffith, hound hugger, pizza guy terrorizer and very bad dancer.