Halloween can be fun for everyone, including your furry family members. According to a national survey by PetSmart, more than 75% of pet parents plan to dress their pets up for Halloween, and a quarter plan to take them trick-or-treating.
But just as you would make sure costumes, goodies and other forms of spooky fun are safe for your child, you’ll want to take steps to protect your four-legged friend. We turned to the experts for some Halloween pet safety tips you’ll want to keep in mind.
Hide the (Human) Treats
There are numerous foods that pets should never eat, especially when it comes to sweets.
“Chocolate, raisins, and xylitol are all toxic to pets, and ingesting any candy can cause an upset stomach,” said Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian and Pumpkin Pet Insurance Veterinary Expert. “Before Halloween, while trick-or-treating, and after, make sure candy is safely stashed in a high cabinet or place where your pet can’t access it.”
Xylitol is a sugar alternative that may be listed by other names, such as wood sugar, birch sugar or birch bark extract. It is often used in sugar-free foods, gum, dental care products, medicines and dietary supplements. Xylitol poisoning in dogs can start within 20 minutes and can be fatal. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested xylitol or anything toxic.
While not toxic, real sugar can also cause your pets to have some nasty symptoms and lead to some major messes for you.
“In the short term, a sugary treat can lead to an upset stomach,” veterinarian Dr. Ari Zabell, senior director of client experience and advocacy at Portland-based Banfield Pet Hospital, told PetMD. “All animals rely on the bacteria and other microorganisms in our gut to help us digest the food we eat. A higher dose of sugar than our pets are used to can upset the balance of those microorganisms and lead to diarrhea — sometimes explosive, sometimes bloody and sometimes even with vomiting.”
Decorate Without Danger
While candles are a timeless Halloween favorite, Wooten says to avoid using them because of how easily they can be tipped over and burn your pet or start a fire. She recommends using flameless candles in jack-o’-lanterns and other Halloween decor. She also suggests covering wires connected to electric decorations, as pets are often tempted to chew on them.
Stringy embellishments, costume pieces and glow sticks are other decorations that might tempt your pet. Most glow sticks are labeled non-toxic but have an extremely bitter taste. Pets who chomp on one might drool or race around the house in response. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests giving a sip of milk or a small treat to offset the unpleasant taste and stop the reaction.
“Finally, while pumpkins and pumpkin seeds are generally safe for dogs and cats in small quantities, make sure to throw them out before they start getting old as moldy or rotting pumpkin is a concern, as well as if a chunk of the pumpkin rind is ingested it can cause an intestinal obstruction,” Wooten said.
Be Careful With Costumes
“While super cute and adorable, [pet costumes] can pose a safety hazard or be dangerous,” Wooten said. “If they don’t fit properly or restrict movement, they can cause your pet to have trouble breathing or rub them and cause bare spots or sores. If they are uncomfortable they may try and chew it off and ingest a portion, which can cause intestinal issues. If you want your pet to be in costume, make sure it fits properly, keep an eye on them while they are wearing it, and don’t leave it on them for too long.”
She adds that wearing a costume can also be stressful for some pets.
“If your pet exhibits any signs of stress (panting, hiding, barking, pacing, going to the bathroom inside the house) when you put the costume on them, or attempts to get out of the costume, it is a sign they are stressed and putting a costume on those pets is best avoided,” she added.
Keep Pets Calm and Confined
Finally, ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible on Halloween night.
“Stress is a common worry for both dogs and cats during Halloween, especially as the doorbell may ring constantly as trick-or-treaters arrive,” Wooten said. “This can be confusing and frightening to your pets, as well as the door constantly opening, which can provide an opportunity for a frightened dog or cat to run out into the dark night.”
You can give them a distraction, such as a long-lasting chew, or try calming aids, like an anxiety vest. Playing soothing music, turning on the television at a distracting volume or keeping your pet in an area of your home away from commotion can also be helpful.
While keeping them away from the evening’s activity is your best bet, it’s also a good idea to take precautions in the event your pet should bolt out of an open door. Wooten recommended ensuring your pet’s tags are up to date with your current phone number.
By taking proper precautions and having a plan in place, you and your pet can have the happiest of Halloweens together.
By Tricia Goss, for Newsy.
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