It may not feel like it, but fall is here! With the advent of autumn comes the beginning October—and preparations for Halloween. It’s easy for the whole family to get caught up in enthusiasm for the cooler seasons’ first big holiday.
New health and safety concerns arise for animals during this time of year, with increased treats, visitors, and household decorations. There are six major elements of the impending holiday that carry preventable risks for pets; familiarize yourself with them so that this year’s Halloween is fun for all.
The best way to get into the holiday spirit is definitely to throw up some spooky decorations. Think twice before you put them within your pet’s reach, though, as some decorations might actually be harmful. Pumpkins, gourds, decorative corn, spooky plants, and other potentially edible decorations could cause an upset stomach if your pet has the chance to ingest even a little bit of them. And speaking of pumpkins, watch out for Jack-o-Lanterns: if your pet accidentally knocks over a pumpkin with a lit candle in it, she might start a fire. Light displays usually have cords that pets might enjoy chewing on, and this could also be a fire hazard—or worse. Chewing on an exposed wire can burn your pet or expose her to electrical shock. Non-electrical decorations that have cords or dangling pieces could also attract your pet’s teeth, which could pose a choking hazard or lead to your pet ingesting something inedible.
Of course your cat looks adorable in his lion costume. But how does he feel about it? If your pet is upset by being put into a costume or shows a desire to destroy the costume, you may want to reconsider your plans for his debut at the Halloween party. Forcing your pet to wear a costume might create undue stress that will ruin the festive environment for everyone. If your pet is fine parading about in a costume, then by all means dress him up. Just keep watch for any loose, constricting, or annoying parts of the costume that might hurt your pet or get on others’ nerves as he moves through the crowd. Also make sure no parts of the costume pose a danger of your pet getting stuck somewhere.
It’s likely that your doorbell doesn’t ring every five minutes on a normal night. The increased number of people stopping by your house on Halloween—whether they ring the doorbell, knock, or simply approach you outside—can be stressful for pets, especially those who are not well-socialized with humans. To keep the anxiety level down and minimize the risk of your pet accidentally escaping, keep your pet locked in another room while your household accepts Trick-or-Treaters. Having the TV on in the room might minimize some of the unusual noise, and keeping your pet in a room that has a small nook or much-loved bed will give her a feeling of safety, despite all the intruders she hears. Finally, make sure your pet is wearing her collar and ID tags on Halloween, just to be safe. You don’t want your pet to be caught without identification in the event that she does run away.
Visitors who come and go are one thing, but what about visitors who stay? Whether you are having a Halloween party or simply hosting a few of your or your children’s friends, having people over on an already-stressful day has the possibility of making your pet anxious. Similar to how you would deal with Trick-or-Treaters, it is probably best to keep your pet in a separate room from the revelers—preferably one with a comforting space to hide, a safe toy or rawhide, and possibly some extra background noise from the TV or radio. Keep an eye on your pet to ensure he doesn’t any opportunities to run away, and inform your guests that they are to either leave your pet in his sanctuary or make sure he isn’t near the door when it is opened. If your pet is comfortable joining the party, you may consider keeping him on a leash as a safety precaution. Also make sure your guests know not to feed anything to your pet unless you have given them permission to do so.
Whether it’s a piece that got dropped on the floor or an indulgence because you can’t just say no to that precious, begging face, make sure your pet doesn’t get to wrap her teeth around any chocolate. “Just a little bit” of chocolate can be harmful for your pet—and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous the dose. If your pet does accidentally get some chocolate, watch her to make sure she doesn’t begin vomiting or get diarrhea, the two most common signs of chocolate poisoning. Pets who have a larger serving of chocolate might become very agitated, have an elevated or abnormal heart rate, seizures, tremors, or even collapse. In the event that your pet consumes a dangerous amount of chocolate and shows any symptoms of chocolate poisoning, call your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian, if it is after business hours. If you aren’t sure whether or not your pet has ingested a dangerous amount of chocolate, or you aren’t sure what to do about your pet’s chocolate consumption, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680.
6. Wrappers and Sweets
Chocolate isn’t the only edible danger that might come from the candy bowl or your kids’ Trick-or-Treat bags. Take care that your pet doesn’t get her paws on any candy wrappers, which could cause choking. It’s best to make a no-treats policy for your pet on Halloween—at least for human treats. Ingesting sweets, wrappers, or any other snacks meant for humans can make your pet sick or very uncomfortable. Keep the snacks and their packaging out of your pet’s reach, and your pet will thank you. (Pet treats are OK in moderation, though!)
When hidden dangers arise from the uncommon enjoyments that come with holiday fun, remember that ‘fun for all’ only applies when we take precautions to ensure Halloween really is safe and enjoyable for everyone.