November 26, 2014

GUEST COLUMN: Halloween can be spooky for pets

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By M. Kathleen Shaw

October 17th, 2013

Many people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be frightened by all of the noises and costumes.

Dressing up is fun for humans, but may not be for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, it must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes or that are edible.

Costumes on people can be equally scary. Masks, large hats and other accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective and fearful of people in costumes, even if they are normally very social with that person. Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and ensuring that it doesn’t bite any guests.

Constant visitors to the door along with spooky sights and sounds may cause pets to escape and become injured. Consider letting your dog spend Halloween inside with special treats, safe and secure. Even in a fenced yard, Halloween is not a good night for a dog to be outside. This is doubly true for cats: they may try to bolt out the door and even if they are allowed outside, they are more at risk for being hit by cars due to the high traffic from trick or treaters. Black cats, especially, are at a higher risk from human cruelty on Halloween. Consider keeping your cats in an interior room where they are unable to bolt out the door.

Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe for your pets. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling string can be tempting to cats, leading to an intestinal obstruction. Candles, even inside pumpkins, can be easily knocked over, burning your pet or even lighting them (it has happened before) or your house on fire.

Keep pets away from all Halloween candy. Chocolate can be toxic to pets, even in small amounts, and lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can cause blockages in the intestinal tract. Candy sweetened with xylitol can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar if ingested by a pet. Some pets can get an upset stomach just from eating a piece of candy, since it isn’t part of their regular diet.

These simple responsible precautions will help humans and pets alike have a safe holiday. For more information on how to make Halloween less stressful to your pet, contact your veterinarian.

Dr. M. Kathleen Shaw is a small animal veterinarian.

 
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