Trick or Treats

Halloween may be a barrel of laughs for people who love to dress up in costumes and have fun, but most pets aren’t quite as fond of the holiday as people are. The doorbell rings far too often and is usually accompanied by loud children and there’s enough candy to make a pack of wolves sick. Frightened pets can run outside to escape the stress and become lost, more frightened or disoriented. With all of these spooky happenings, even the bravest of pets may find Halloween far too frightening, so it’s important to keep your pet’s peace of mind, health, and safety in mind when planning for the holiday.

Cute internet images may have us all believing that pets and costumes go together like cereal and milk, but not all pets agree. What may be adorable to us may be just plain miserable for some pets. You may have noticed that, Elmer, our clinic cat’s picture is not at the top of this article. Elmer, like many cats, does not appreciate Halloween costumes. Standing in this month is Maggie who loves dressing up. It’s best to keep a few key things in mind if you’re dressing up your pet this year:

  • A costume can annoy or frighten some dogs when stress is already higher than usual. Make certain that any costume (or any clothing at all) is loose and won’t make the pet uncomfortable.
  • Sometimes elastics are too tight, potentially causing an area to swell and cause pain or they grab too much hair so that it has the effect of a ponytail pulled painfully tight.
  • The bits and pieces of a costume sometimes cause tripping hazards or allow someone to step on it.
  • A costume should be comfy and nonrestrictive.
  • Paint should not be used directly on the animal.
  • Some dogs will try to eat parts of their costumes, so watch your pets constantly while they are wearing one.
  • If the costume involves a mask, make sure your pet’s vision is unrestricted.
  • Beware of the temperature. Some Halloweens in Texas can be very warm and your pet is already wearing a fur coat. Make sure costumes do not overheat your pet.

While some pets love all the excitement and find it fun, the constant visitors to the door along with spooky sights and sounds may not be good for other pets. Consider letting them 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. If the Halloween excitement is just too much, see what your veterinarian thinks about medication to help for the evening. Outdoor cats are safest inside on this night of bustling activity. Even black cats can be scared by all the ghouls and goblins roaming the street.

Some pets can get stress-related diarrhea as a result of all the noise and activity, so speak with your veterinarian well before Halloween if you have big plans and you know your pet is sensitive to changes in their environment or routine. Poisoning can be a concern on Halloween. Cats aren’t that interested in candy but dogs can eat enough of it – and quickly – to get sick enough to need emergency veterinary care. Gastrointestinal problems are a typical result, usually vomiting and diarrhea, but if enough chocolate is in the mix or something contains xylitol you could have some scary issues. Chocolate is toxic because it contains methylxanthines. In particular, it contains theobromine and caffeine and they both produce similar effects, but the theobromine lasts substantially longer. The more chocolate liquor there is in a product, the more theobromine there is. This makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies. Theobromine can cause Vomiting, Diarrhea, Hyperactivity, Tremors, Seizures, Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms, and Death in severe cases. Toxic doses of theobromine are nine mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg per ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce. So it doesn’t take much to cause harm. White chocolate has virtually no theobromine and is only a problem because of its fat content. If you must seek emergency care after the ingestion of chocolate or other candies, it is important to have necessary information. Your veterinary professional will need the type of chocolate, amount eaten, when eaten, and weight of your pet to make a determination of risk to your pet. But chocolate isn’t the only concern. Overeating of junk food in general, especially fatty foods, can result in pancreatitis which is very painful at best and fatal at worst.

Remind your children not to give any candy to your dogs or cats even though it’s sweet of them to share their bounty, not all things should be shared. If you take your dog out treat-or-treating with your family, consider using reflective gear not just for your two-legged children. Remember that other dogs and children are wound up with excitement. Keep your dog safe from sudden moves by children and be aware of other dogs going by with their families. Those adorable costumes on children can set off a territorial or fearful response in some dogs, either of which could result in a bite. Candles and jack-o’-lanterns are a fire hazard especially if you have pets. Dogs and cats may knock over burning candles or let curiosity get the better of them so that they stick their faces into a jack-o-lantern. Other decorations, such as fake cobwebs and spiders, could create a choking hazard, so keep your pet safely away from them. While Halloween isn’t as noisy or frightening as the Fourth of July (which is the busiest time of the year for lost pets), Halloween is the second Scariest Holiday of the Year for our four-legged family members.

Halloween can be a fun day for all ages -whether two-legged or four. A few 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. Remember, your family Veterinarian can help guide you through your pet’s care throughout their lives!