Halloween is a fun time for kids and pets to get dressed up and parade around the neighborhood, but it’s also a time to use some precaution when it comes to pets. We asked Dr. Molly Subasic Spears, DVM, of Coastal Vet Clinic in Bluffton, SC her tips for keeping your pet safe during Halloween.
SL: Which Halloween treats should you keep away from pets?
Dr. Molly: You shouldn't give any human candy or treats to dogs, but the candies that can be most harmful to your family pets are chocolate and anything containing the artificial sweetener xylitol. Chocolate contains caffeine-like chemicals that can cause symptoms ranging from mild gastrointestinal distress (i.e. vomiting or diarrhea) to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias or even death. The severity of symptoms is dependent upon the size of the dog and the amount of cocoa content of the candy. Milk chocolate contains the least amount of cocoa and tends to produce milder symptoms, while dark chocolate and baker's chocolate contain higher amounts of pure cocoa and produce more pronounced symptoms.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener often found in chewing gum, baked goods, and other candies. When ingested, it can cause vomiting, dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) accompanied by weakness and collapse, and massive liver failure. Any animal that consumes xylitol should have immediate medical attention.
SL: Is there any truth to the rumor that black cats are often taken at Halloween?
Dr. Molly: I have never heard of any increased "catnapping" incidents during Halloween, just a lot of superstition about them being associated with witches, demons, and bringing bad luck...none of which are true!
SL: Do you have any safety tips or fun ideas for dressing your pet in costume?
Dr. Molly: Dressing dogs and cats in costume can be a lot of fun. However, caution should be used when putting pets in costume. Some potential safety issues would include elastic bands that could compromise circulation or small pieces that could be chewed off and swallowed. Additionally, if your pet shows any signs of anxiety while trying to apply a costume, do not continue to try to dress them up.
If your pet does tolerate wearing a costume, check out our Costume Parade for fun and unique ideas! Always remember to keep your pet on a leash if they accompany you during Trick-or-Treating.
SL: What are some ways to calm your pet if they get nervous with the ringing doorbell and kids running around?
Dr. Molly: If your pet becomes nervous with the doorbell or children, it is best to avoid the situation all together. You could sit on the front porch to hand out candy or leave a note on the door to not ring the doorbell. Keep your pet inside, or if possible, confined to a crate or bedroom so they do not bolt when the door is opened. Another solution would be to leave your pet with a friend or relative that does not participate in Halloween activities. Things like Thundershirts, calming supplements, or pheromones are widely available to help pets deal with anxiety. Your veterinarian can also make recommendations for appropriate anti-anxiety medications, if necessary.
SL: Of course it’s a good practice to ID/microchip your pet in case they get away from you during trick or treating. Any tips about this?
Dr. Molly: Microchipping provides a permanent method of identification for your pet. Once the microchip is implanted, the owner’s information (name, address, telephone number, emergency contact) is registered with the manufacturing company. Just make sure to notify the microchip company of any changes in this information so your pet will always be reunited to you with ease.
SL: What about plants and decorations that are put out in the fall such as pumpkins, Indian corn, mums, etc.—are any of these toxic or hazardous to dogs?
Dr. Molly: Corn cobs are favorite items for dogs to ingest and they will get stuck in the intestines. Many other fall plants such as mums and pumpkins are relatively safe for dogs, but it’s always best to not let pets consume anything other than their own food and treats.
Stay tuned to more helpful tips from Dr. Molly and have a Happy Halloween!