Things to Consider
Halloween can be a fun and festive time for families. The costumes, parades of children, decorations, candy and intricate costumes, however, can cause dogs a great deal of stress and pose very real threats to pets’ health and safety. In order to ensure the Halloween season is enjoyable, dog owners should take several safety precautions into consideration this October.
- Chocolate. Chocolate is not good for dogs. The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. These are present in cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa bean hulls, semisweet chocolate, sweet dark chocolate and milk chocolate. White chocolate has insignificant amounts of theobromine and caffeine. Dogs that eat chocolate can develop fatal heart rhythms and central nervous system abnormalities. One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of a dog’s body weight is a potentially fatal dosage. Affected dogs typically get sick within 6 to 12 hours after eating chocolate. They are thirsty, vomit, become restless and have diarrhea. They may become hyperactive, lose coordination, get a fever and develop tremors or seizures. Sometimes, they collapse, fall into a coma and die.
- Keep Decorations and Wires Out of Reach. Don’t allow your dog to chew on pumpkins, decorative corn, or other fall-themed decorations. These items can cause severe stomach upset, choking, or even death. Keep all electrical cords for lighting and decoration out of the dog’s reach. Chewing and pulling on cords can lead to injury, broken glass or even an electrical shock. You may wish to spray cords with bitter apple spray to deter curious dogs from chewing and tugging.
- Reconsider the Costume. Unless you know for sure that your pet is comfortable wearing clothes, don’t purchase a dog costume. Some dogs can become extremely stressed when their owners dress them, which could cause them to growl at, snap at, or even bite well-meaning admirers. If you do dress up your dog, be sure that the costume does not constrict the neck or impede vision or movement in any way and remove any small pieces that could be easily swallowed.
- Wear Reflective Gear. If you do venture out with your pet during trick-or-treat, be sure to add reflective tape to the leash or costume so that passing cars will see you, just as you would add reflective tape to a child’s clothing.
- Artificial Sweeteners. Many sugar-free gums and candies contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol, which is poisi. Other names for Xylitol are Xylite, Eutrit, Newtol and Xyliton. The technical name for this substance is 1,2,3,4,5-pentapentanol, or 1,2,3,4,5-pentahydroxypentane. Xylitol causes a rapid increase in a dog’s blood insulin levels, which in turn reduces the amount of glucose in its blood. Dogs that ingest Xylitol become weak, lethargic and disoriented. They vomit, have seizures and lose coordination. Some have acute liver failure, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and, in rare cases, they die. Owners should be especially careful at Halloween to keep all candies and treats well out of reach of their dogs.
- Candles in Jack-O-Lantern. Candles inside of jack-o-lanterns are festive, but pose a very real fire hazard. Excitable pets may knock the candle over, putting themselves, the home, and other family members at risk. Instead of using a traditional candle, opt for a battery-operated version that will create the same flickering effect without the flame.
- Strangers. Halloween brings lots of strangers to the house – especially to the front door. Many dogs are fine with meeting and greeting strangers, but others aren't so fond of the experience. All of those Halloween costumes can be scary for dogs. It's a good idea to plan your Halloween evening to take your dog's care into consideration. Think about how your dog will react to all the doorbell ringing and commotion. It may be scared, it may be excited, or it may not know what to do. The best thing usually is to secure your pooch safely away from all the activity in a warm, quiet room, with food and fresh water available and a soft bed to lie on, until the trick or treating is over.
- Lost Pet. Update your microchip information. Many pet owners forget to update their microchip ID information when they move. Check to make sure yours is up to date, and be sure that your pet has ID tags on his collar. With all the door opening and closing from trick-or-treaters, dogs can escape, whether from fear or otherwise. Keep your buddy safely confined inside the house on Halloween, to prevent an accidental escape.
- Fear. Many dogs are wary of strangers. On Halloween evening, the strangers get even stranger. Take good care of your dog during this active and stressful time. Unless your dog is extremely mellow, keep the dog confined to an area of the home where he cannot see the front door. Even normally calm dogs can become overly excited or stressed out by a constant parade of strangers at the front door. It can help to play the television or a radio at a low volume to mask the sounds of trick-or-treaters.
With a little bit of common sense and a very watchful eye, pet owners can ensure that everyone in the home has a safe and happy Halloween.