Your pet may agree that Halloween is the spookiest day of the year, and the fear this frightful celebration’s festivities might cause them can lead to an accident. Our Lebanon Animal Hospital team explains how to protect your pet from the top five Halloween hazards, so you can enjoy a fun-filled night with your four-legged friend.
#1: Not so sweet—candy-related hazards for pets
No one can resist Halloween candy’s sweet fragrance and brightly colored wrappers, which never fail to attract kids, kids at heart, and their pets. Unfortunately, many popular Halloween candies cast a troubling spell on dogs and cats. In addition to an innocent sugar high and dental problems, curious candy-consuming canines and cats are at risk for serious—sometimes life-threatening—health conditions including:
- Chocolate toxicity — Chocolate contains stimulant-like ingredients that cause heart and neurologic changes. Dark and bitter chocolate—often used in baking—have the highest toxicity level, but all chocolate types are dangerous to your pet, and may cause significant illness when consumed in high quantities.
- Xylitol toxicity — Xylitol is a natural sugar alternative found in sugar-free candy, gum, and baked goods. Dogs who ingest xylitol rapidly experience hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar) and may suffer from permanent liver damage. In severe cases, xylitol toxicity can be fatal. To learn more about xylitol’s toxicity to your pet, visit our website.
- Raisin and grape toxicity — Raisins and grapes may cause dogs to develop kidney failure. Trick-or-treaters often receive this toxin—in the form of plain or chocolate-covered raisin snack boxes—as Halloween treats. Because the toxic dose is unknown, you should alert your veterinarian about any amount of raisins or grapes your pet ingests.
- Macadamia nut toxicity — Macadamia nuts can cause dogs’ severe illness and neuromuscular signs. This nut’s high-fat content can also trigger pancreatitis.
- Pancreatitis — Sugary, salty, or fatty foods can inflame your pet’s pancreas, causing pancreatitis, which is an extremely painful condition that requires them to be hospitalized for treatment.
- Intestinal blockage — While dogs have been known to eat whole candies—wrappers and all—cats usually forgo the candy, but may ingest the shiny packaging, decorative ties, and string. Candy wrapper ingestion can result in a dangerous intestinal blockage that requires surgical removal.
Protect your pet from candy-related hazards by keeping all sweet treats—including those your two-footed goblins bring home—out of reach, ensuring your family immediately disposes of the candy wrappers in trash cans your four-footed goblins cannot access.
#2: Halloween hijinks—escaping pets
Halloween surprises can be too startling for some pets—including those who are generally well-behaved. Your panicked pet may be incapable of responding to familiar commands, and in their disorientation, may run away. Keep your furry friend safe and secure by taking the following precautions:
- Ensuring your pet is microchipped, and that the chip is registered
- Outfitting your pet with a well-fitted collar and current identification tags
- Confining nervous pets to a quiet room or crate during the time trick-or-treaters come to your front door
- Restricting door access by using pet gates
- Allowing friendly pets to observe the festivities from a safe distance (e.g., an exercise pen or crate), or keeping your dog leashed
If your pet will be joining you while your family goes trick-or-treating, increase their visibility by dressing them in a reflective or light-up collar, and add reflective tape to their costume.
#3: Disappearing act—decoration hazards for pets
Pets love to play now you see it, now you don’t with holiday decorations. Unfortunately, pets cannot resist popular Halloween home accents—such as twinkle lights, candles, artificial spiderwebs, figurines, and gourds. Halloween decor can have disastrous consequences such as:
- Intestinal blockage
Keep your pet out of harm’s way by restricting their access to decorated areas, providing constant supervision, and replacing burning candles with battery-operated alternatives.
#4: Fangs out—fear-based aggression and pet bites
Dogs and cats may display uncharacteristic behavior when they feel threatened, stressed, or overwhelmed—emotions that can arise quickly on Halloween. Pet bites and scratches can inflict serious harm—especially to children and the elderly.
If your pet is likely to be nervous or anxious during Halloween festivities, provide them a safe, secure, and quiet area at home such as in a crate or in a room away from the activities. Monitor your pet for stress-related body language, including dilated pupils, crouched posture, flat ears, shaking, drooling, panting, hiding, and growling. Immediately remove a nervous pet from any social situation to prevent an aggressive behavioral escalation.
#5: Wardrobe malfunction—pet costume mishaps
You cannot deny the cuteness of an English bulldog disguised as a hamburger, or a cat dressed as a taco, but you must consider the risks that a Halloween costume can pose to your pet. Although some pets adore the attention they receive when they wear a hat or a costume, others feel trapped by the fabric, Velcro, and straps. Unless your pet is accustomed to wearing garments, introduce their costumes gradually, and follow these safety tips to ensure the right fit—both physically and emotionally:
- Remove dangling items—such as ribbon, yarn, fringe, or string—which can entangle a pet or be ingested.
- Remove detachable items—including buttons, charms, or toys—which may be swallowed.
- Ensure your pet’s costume fits well, and does not restrict their movement
- Acclimate your pet to their costume before fright night, and monitor them for stress.
As a general rule, dogs and cats prefer familiar environments and predictable routines, and traditional Halloween hijinks can make them feel they are in a literal nightmare. As you make your final preparations for the spookiest night of the year, remember to consider how your furry friend might react to all the fuss. For additional stress-reducing strategies—including anti-anxiety medication and supplements, contact Lebanon Animal Hospital, or schedule a virtual visit via AirVet.