Have a happy HOWLoween!

Halloween is approaching quickly.   The stores are filled with candy, costumes, and decorations.  As you put the finishing touches on your costume, visit haunted houses, and decorate your door for trick or treaters, don’t forget to think about how your pet will experience this holiday.  Halloween can provide unique challenges for pet owners, but with a little preparation and consideration, your pets can also have a happy Halloween.

Whether you have kids, provide treats for trick or treaters, or just like to take advantage of all the candy sales, you may find that you have quite a bit of extra candy around the house.  These sugary treats may be delicious, but most candy can be problematic or even dangerous for pets to eat.  Chocolate is toxic to dogs, causing vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, elevations in body temperature, seizures, or even death if high doses are consumed.  Sugar-free candies and gums containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be toxic if consumed.  Other candies may not be truly toxic, but can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea that are at the very least unpleasant for your pet, and at worst could mean that your pet needs fluid therapy or other medical intervention.  To keep your pets from over indulging this Halloween, make sure that all candy is put away, out of reach of pets and well-meaning children eager to share their treats with their four-legged friends.

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While sweet treats may not be tempting for every pet, decorations put up around the house may prove to be problematic.  Decorations that light up or make noise may frighten some pets, especially if the item is activated by a motion sensor.  Some decorations, if ingested, could cause serious gastrointestinal illness in dogs and cats, especially if a piece of the item becomes stuck and obstructs proper intestinal flow.  Items with strings can be particularly problematic if they are swallowed and become stuck.  These problems can manifest as vomiting or retching, diarrhea, lack of appetite, or listlessness among other signs.  If the case is severe, emergency surgery may be required to remove the blockage.

CiderTrick or treating and Halloween parties could mean that your door will open more frequently and there will be more visitors than usual at your home.  For some pets, an open door means an opportunity for escape and adventure.  For pets who love to try to escape the house, confining them to a small low-traffic room or putting them in their kennel will help to keep them from sneaking out while you’re divvying out candy. This strategy may also be beneficial for pets who become stressed or aggravated with new visitors to the home.  By removing them to a safe space, you can help to calm them and make the holiday less stressful for your pet and your guests.  Always make sure that your pet is wearing their collar and tags and that their microchip information is up to date so that you can be reunited if they become lost.

For pets who enjoy dressing up and going trick or treating with their families, Halloween can be great fun.  If your pet will be wearing a costume, make sure that it fits properly, does not restrict movement, vision, or impair your pet’s ability to breathe or pant easily.  Monitor your pet frequently to make sure that the costume hasn’t slipped and isn’t being surreptitiously ingested by your pet. For most pets, it will be best to leave them at home for trick or treating.  Only pets who are very social and enjoy activities with lots of new people, sights, and noise should be considered as potential trick or treaters.  Even pets who ordinarily enjoy walks and new people can become unnerved by the costumes, sounds, and decorations of Halloween, so it’s very important to pay attention to how your pet is reacting to these stimuli.  Be prepared to bring them home if they become stressed or frightened.  For pets who are nervous or fearful of new people and situations, staying at home will be a much safer and kinder option.  If you elect to take your pet with you, they should be leashed and under your control at all times to keep them safe and to keep them from sneaking stray pieces of candy off the ground.

If you become concerned that your pet tot2has ingested something they shouldn’t have, be it candy, toy, or decoration, please seek veterinary help as soon as possible.  If your pet has gone missing, make sure to file reports at area animals shelters and notify your pet’s microchip company while you search to increase the chances of your pet returning home.  If you have any other questions about how to keep your pet safe this Halloween, please speak to your veterinarian or contact us at askthevet@la-spca.org.  Have a safe and happy Halloween!