Halloween can be a stressful & dangerous time for both cats and dogs. Think of it… all year long you, your household, and pets have fallen into a pretty predictable routine. Halloween arrives and the routine is suddenly broken with frequent knocking at the door, constant ringing of the doorbell, loud noises, glow lights & flashlights, the door is constantly opening and closing with excited strangers wearing scary costumes on their “territory”. As smart as your dog may be, he/she does not understand this long standing tradition. Some pets can become distressed, terrified, or over-protective triggering aggressive behavior. After all, they only want to protect you. As for cats, they too can become distressed or terrified and usually run away to hide under the bed or in a closet. This Halloween, let’s keep your pets safe and minimize the stress for both of you by following a few tips:
#1. Keep your pets indoors, confined in a room or kennel
A scared pet is more apt to escape through the opened door while you’re engaged with trick or treaters. You should kennel or close them in a room to keep them secure. Turn a TV or radio on low, close the drapes, make sure they have bedding, toys, food and water, and let them settle in. Times are not what they used to be. As much as we would like to think of our neighborhood being safe, an escaped terrified pet is not equipped to handle the real dangers of being outdoors overnight: cold weather, hungry coyotes, getting hit by a car, and pranksters. -Yes, the wearing of a costume & mask plus ill intentions does give some people the boldness and anonymity to do things to a defenseless pet they wouldn’t think of otherwise.
#2. Candles and Glow Sticks
Glowing Pumpkins are a great way for you to share with your community the hard work you and the kids have created. That carved jack-o-lantern in your window can also become a fire hazard with pets present. Cats, especially kittens are attracted to the flickering flame and risk getting their whiskers burned or fur singed which could cause a chain reaction of knocking over that lit pumpkin. With dogs it’s a pretty simple matter of being clumsy. Yeah, I actually said that. Anyway, make sure anything “flame lit” is on a stable surface, not easily tipped over, and not near curtains or flammables. When considering placement of a lit pumpkin you should ask yourself: Can my pets knock it over? Can my cat reach it? Are my fake cobwebs too close? Is it in the path of where children will be stepping? Is it a danger to children’s costumes which may be flammable? Is it near an object that can easily ignite with or without a breeze?
For each year from 2014 to 2016, an estimated 10,100 fires were reported to fire departments in the United States over a three-day period around Halloween and caused an estimated 30 deaths, 125 injuries and $102 million in property loss. -NFIRS and the National Fire Protection Association
You could consider replacing that real candle with a battery operated one or glow sticks for the same effect minus the fire potential. Mentioning glow sticks… those attractive liquid filled sticks contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which I understand tastes rather unpleasant for the cat or dog who chews or licks it. Thankfully, DBP is more of an irritant and is non-toxic but can cause some rather scary drooling, vomiting, gagging and even foaming at the mouth. Should your dog manage to ingest some of the stuff, try wiping off any glow residue from around the mouth and giving your dog a couple of spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, cottage cheese or wet dog food to remove the taste which should go away in a couple of hours. For your cat, try wiping off any glow residue from around the mouth and giving your cat a couple of spoonfuls of milk, tuna, or canned cat food to remove the taste. You can try using a clean washcloth, dampen a part with milk to wipe around the mouth area and also use it to squeeze a small amount of the liquid in their mouth to reduce the symptoms. Keep the milk, tuna, and/or canned cat food with water dish accessible on the floor near where he/she is hiding and symptoms should go away in a couple of hours. If you notice your pets’ fur starts to glow in the dark, don’t give them an opportunity to lick it when a bath will take care of the problem.
#3. The Halloweenie costume…
Let’s be honest, no dog really “wants” to be dressed up unless it’s a Dachshund, it’s cold outside, it’s cold inside, and you’re offering a fleece jacket or stylish sweater. It’s really all about you and how cute your pet will look to others. Unless your pet is accustomed to dressing up, I would not “force” a costume on. Here me out… There are dogs who love it, dogs who hate it, those who are indifferent, and dogs who will tolerate it just to please you. Wearing a doggie sweater or jacket for warmth in the cold or protection from the rain is one thing which most dogs don’t mind. Dressing your dog to look like Nemo or a Transformer is a whole different story. If your pet shows signs of distress, barking, meowing, difficulty breathing, struggling to get out of it, tearing at it, impaired vision, and/or signs of restrictive movements you may want to scrap the whole idea and stick with a bandana. Before embarrassing both you and dog, do a dress rehearsal before the actual event/outing to see how how comfortable he is in safe surroundings.
It will also give you the opportunity to “tweak” your costume for any safety issues. On the other hand, if your dog or cat doesn’t mind a costume because he just wants to please his owner, at least be tasteful.
Dachshunds are cute. Dachshunds look super awesome in costumes, but Dachshunds are not designed to wear costumes that carry weight or heavy objects on their backs or spines. Do not design or purchase a costume that puts unnecessary weight or stress on your Dachshund’s back.
Rusty and I attended one “Halloweenie” get-together where he went as “The Devil”, a Devil dog that is. I know he did it to please me, and once there seeing how the other dogs looked provided some comfort for him. Then he met “fire dog” of which both dogs proceed to compare notes on costumes.
I swore “never again” until I was gifted the classic “hotdog bun” costume for Rusty. I even bought the “Heinz ketchup bottle” human edition costume for me to match. If there is one thing I learned about Dachshunds (at least Rusty), they have standards. As far as the “hotdog bun” costume goes, he was having no part of that! The following year when we attended the local Halloweenie gathering he dressed “au naturel” (if you don’t know what that means, it means “naked” with no costume). I did carry a small beach towel however, so when asked about his lack of costume I could reply that he was “a skinny dipper”.
Halloween is all about lots and lots of candies, but are they safe for your dog or cat? Emphatically, I say “NO”!
Human Halloween candies: If your dog can lick it, bite it, chew it, swallow it, or ingest it, it is not safe for your dog. That includes anything chocolate or with cocoa, candy corns, hard candies, suckers, lollipops, cotton candy, etc. There is nothing and I mean NOTHING in your Halloween bag (including the bag) or bowl that is safe for your dog or cat to eat. If you really love your pet, make or fetch some healthy and delicious Halloween DOG or CAT Treats! He’ll reward you with a long & healthy life! -Lokiamus
- Chocolates & cocoa products contain a substance known as methylxanthine which includes “caffeine” and “theobromine” both toxic and fatal to dogs. So NO NO NO to Snicker Bars, Milkey Way, Kit Kats, Twix, Mars, Almond Joys, M&Ms, Hersheys, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Chocolate Covered Raisins, Kisses, Nestlé Crunch, Whoppers, etc. If it has chocolate, it’s a NO NO for your furry companion. Read more…
- Candy corns are a traditional favorite packed full of sugar and corn syrup found only during Halloween. Candy corns can be life threatening only if they contain “xylitol” (check brand & ingredients). Otherwise, like any human high sugar content food it can cause obesity, high blood pressure and heart problems. Candy corns may be a treat but DO NOT share with your dog!
- Artificially sweetened candies, mints, lollipops, bubble gum & chewing gums may be low in sugar, but high in toxicity due to “xylitol”. Chemically, xylitol is a sugar alcohol (polyalcohol)/sugar substitute that is safe for humans used in sugar free products. Unfortunately, it’s not safe for your pets and lethal. Even the smallest amount is known to cause a sudden rapid release of insulin in your furry companion resulting in seizures, hypoglycemia, clotting issues, and liver failure. Untreated, it is toxic and fatal.
- Hard candies including suckers, gummy bears, jolly ranchers, lollipops etc. when in contact with your dogs’ saliva become slippery objects capable of becoming a serious choking hazard that can block the trachea (wind pipes). If chewed, they can potentially chip or break a tooth. If they get swallowed whole or in part, they can become hard to digest causing internal abrasions, a clogged digestive tract or full intestinal blockage. Of course, concern is if it contains xylitol which is extremely toxic to dogs.
- Candy wrappers are cellophane or foil. Empty wrappers carry the scent of food and to a dog it is “food”. Toxicity from the original candy isn’t too much of an issue with an empty candy wrapper, but you should know that wrappers are not digestible. They can cause internal damage, digestive upset, abdominal tenderness, constipation, and intestinal blockage if left untreated.
The best prevention to keep your pet safe, healthy, and out of the emergency clinic is to keep all candies and wrappers away from your pets. Period.
As an added precaution, you should always keep handy the contact information for your local veterinary emergency clinic for pet related emergencies should something occur outside regular office hours. If unsure of the seriousness or your local ER is too far away, another source is an online website Just Answer Dog Veterinary or Just Answer Cat Veterinary where you can connect 24-7, 365 days to a veterinarian on hand for advice.
Be safe this Halloween!