Halloween is a lot of fun for kids and parents alike, but dangers are often overlooked for pets during the holiday. Foods like chocolate, candies and other Halloween items can all pose a potential risk for small pets during all the fun.
Because Halloween is associated with plenty of candy, it is often the first place that pet owners find trouble. Scandia Veterinarian Dr. Steven Frech shares his knowledge of which candies pose the most risk for pets.
“The bad one is chocolate toxicity,” he says. “There’s a chemical similar to caffeine that’s toxic to them, and the darker the chocolate the worse it is for them. You’ll see symptoms like vomiting, lethargy and if they get enough of it they can have seizures.” Frech also explains the other candies that can be dangerous.
“Candy can be a danger just because it’s so calorie intense,” he says. “Pancreatitis can occur in dogs if they eat too much candy and it’s a very painful disease. The other big danger of candy is xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener found in a lot of new candy today. And pet owners often overlook candy wrappers which can cause bowel obstruction.”
To prevent the risks associated with chocolate, xylitol, or candy wrappers, the best course of action is to keep the bowl of candy meant for trick-or-treaters inaccessible to pets.
There are other dangers for pets apart from candy. On the topic of chewing, veterinary clinics are seeing an increase in pets that come in after chewing glow sticks – primarily cats. “The glow sticks that everyone uses are also dangerous,” says Frech. “Especially for cats they’re a choking hazard and they can cause irritation of the mouth. You’ll see profuse drooling and foaming at the mouth if they get into them.”
Many dogs are easily upset when someone comes to the door. Because of the amount of trick-or-treaters who come to the door on Halloween, this issue becomes worse than normal and could cause hazardous situations.
“If they own a pet that’s weary of strangers, or is likely to bite somebody, they should find a place to keep them during Trick-or-Treating time,” Frech says. Another issue that comes from all the front door traffic is the possibility of losing a nervous pet, which poses its own risks.
“The best option is probably to keep pets in on Halloween,” he continued. “There are some weird people out there that think Halloween is an excuse to hurt an animal. So, pet owners should be very careful about letting their pets out on Halloween night.”
One of the last dangers that are forgotten by pet owners is the costume that they dress their pets in. While they can be cute, it’s important to make sure that there are no harmful pieces for pets.
“If pet owners decide to go out with a pet on Halloween, they should put the costume on the pet a couple of times to make sure it’s not too tight and the pet can breathe okay,” says Frech. “They should also make sure there aren’t any loose pieces that pets can chew off and swallow. And you should never leave a pet unattended in the costume because they can get wrapped up in them and get into trouble.”
Despite the best of caution, any pet owner can find that their pet runs into one of these dangers making it important to know how to react. The first response is to contact the Pet Poison Helpline who will often have immediate advice for pet owners. The next step is to find the nearest open veterinary clinic.
Scandia Veterinary Clinic is open during regular business hours during the week, but small animal emergencies are often referred to clinics such as Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Blaine, Minnesota.
"Don’t wait to seek help. With most toxins, the longer you wait to start treatment, the greater the risk to the pet,” explains Dr. Kelley of Blue Pearl Pet Hospital. “So, time is very important to successful management, and waiting until symptoms occur often means a worse prognosis or longer and more expensive course of treatment.”
Pet Poison Hotline: 800-213-6680