While my dogs might say the biggest Halloween hazard they face is the embarrassment of another costume, the truth is that our favorite fright night is filled with potential danger for pets. Here are 5 tips to follow so your furry friends have a safe and happy Halloween.
- Beware of xylitol. The obvious concern is the amount of candy and wrappers than can find their way to a pet’s level. Most people are aware that chocolate can be dangerous for animals, but fewer know that xylitol is toxic as well. Xylitol is a sweetener found in many “sugar-free” candies and gums, but can be present in some brands not listed as ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low-sugar.’ Dogs ingesting even small amounts of xylitol can experience severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and possibly even liver failure. Be very cautious to not leave any foods listing xylitol as an ingredient where a pet can get to them.
- Watch for “wolfing down.” Even non-toxic foods can be a problem if they are consumed in large amounts. Dogs consuming significant volumes of any candies or baked goods could potentially lead to pancreatitis, where an inflamed pancreas can lead to damage to other organs. The damage from pancreatitis can lead to hospitalization and may be life-threatening in severe cases. Signs may not arise for days after eating the problem meal, so it is important to keep a close eye on your pets for a few days after any meal you suspect could been a problem.
- Wrappers wrapped in risk. And it’s not just the candy you need to look out for. Even the wrappers can pose a problem leading to gastrointestinal obstructions if the wrapper causes entrapment or blockage. Even small fragments of wrappers can pose big problems if they happen to get stuck in the wrong place. The scent of food on the wrappers make them just as enticing as the candy itself for many animals, so don’t leave stacks of wrappers around for pets to find. Like pancreatitis, signs such as lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea may not begin immediately.
- Doorbells can drive some pets bonkers. Your dog doesn’t need to get into the candy for Halloween to be a problem. The excitement and stress of doorbells ringing and multiple strangers arriving may be too much for some pets. It might seem cruel to crate your pet during the festivities, but many animals will relax into the security of a familiar place. It’s not worth the risk of a dog running out the door, injuring themselves or a visitor, as the stress of the experience builds throughout the evening. Unless your dog is very well-socialized and is well experienced with visitors, it may be best to restrict them to a safe place during trick-or-treat hours.
- Pet costumes are cute, but…. Even the costumes for pets themselves can pose significant risks. Animals who are not used to wearing apparel are prone to chewing on costumes and ingestion of fabric can have the same risks of obstruction as wrappers. In addition, many of the cheap metal parts on costumes can contain zinc or lead, which poses serious health risks to pets. Don’t leave costumes on unsupervised animals, and make sure the costumes are nonrestrictive and comfortable for your pet.
Keep those pets safe during Halloween. Watch for candy or wrappers left where pets can reach, and be sure to keep scared animals safely restricted from the festive activities. When in doubt about anything your pet may have accidentally eaten, contact your veterinarian. It’s better to ask first than find out later that your pet’s health is in jeopardy. My own dog would like to add: costumes aren’t necessary since your pets are cute enough already. Happy Halloween!
This blog was written by Neogen’s professional services veterinarian, Dr. Joe Lyman (pictured top left). For more information on Neogen’s animal safety division, click here.