Pet Talk: Halloween pet safety

Beautiful Black Labrador Retriever next to pumpkins, gourds and other fall decor.

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Though many people get a thrill from the frightening masks and costumes on Halloween night, our pets are less likely to appreciate the spooky tradition. To ensure your pet’s safety this holiday weekend, follow these simple guidelines.

Collecting candy is one of the most well-known traditions of Halloween. We might appreciate the array of tastes in our assortment of candy, but is it safe to offer Fido a few bites? Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how candy can be harmful for pets. “For individual ingredients, chocolate is the biggest offender,” she said. “Dark chocolate is the most dangerous candy, followed by milk chocolate and white chocolate. Chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea, a rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures, and death. Other ingredients in candy can also be of concern, such as certain nuts and raisins.” Eckman added that most general candies primarily cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, consuming candy like those containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, can lead to more significant diseases and even death in dogs and cats.

To prevent your furry friends from consuming harmful candy, try storing the treats on a high shelf out of your pet’s reach. Other items that should be kept away from your pet include pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, corn, and electrical cords. These objects are a hazard if consumed or chewed on by your pet. If you suspect your pet has ingested harmful candy or other dangerous items, Eckman recommends contacting your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). The APCC can be reached at (888) 426-4435.

Halloween is most often defined by the famous tradition of wearing costumes. Your pet may look absolutely adorable wearing a princess gown or a Superman suit, but that does not mean they are enjoying the experience as much as you are. To determine if it is appropriate to dress your pet for Halloween night, Eckman recommended these helpful tips. “Make sure the costume is not covering the animal’s face (mainly their mouth and nose), so they can breathe properly,” she said. “It is also important that the costume does not fit too tight around the neck. The costume should not make the animal too hot if it is warm out, and it should not trip them while running or walking. Lastly, costumes with lights and batteries are a safety hazard.” If you are planning on dressing your pet for Halloween, Eckman suggested dressing your pet in their outfit several times before the big party or event so they become accustomed to the fit.

Animal cruelty is never acceptable, but Halloween is unfortunately a time when pranksters may steal, tease, injure, and even kill beloved pets. To protect your pets from cruel behavior, keep them inside or in a secure fenced in area or backyard. Black cats are especially at risk during Halloween, which is why they should be kept inside several days prior and after the holiday. You should also keep in mind that trick-or-treaters will be knocking on your door throughout the night, which may startle your pets. Dogs can be especially territorial, so it is important to keep them in another room so they do not bark or growl at guests.

Proper identification is one of the most important factors in keeping your pet safe this Halloween. Human and vehicular traffic may frighten animals and cause them to run off from the safety of your home. If you are going to take your pet trick-or-treating with you, walk them on a leash and provide them with a reflective collar or tape so they are more visible at night. All pets need a collar with identification tags, and it is also recommended by Eckman to invest in a form of identification that cannot come off, such as a microchip.

Halloween is a fun night for people of all ages, but it is important to remember that your pet may have a different perspective on the holiday. Keeping your pet’s safety in mind when planning parties and handing out candy is important, because nobody wants to spend Halloween night searching for a lost family member.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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