Halloween is fast approaching and with it comes costumes, candy and lots of decorations. Holidays can be a lot of fun for humans, but they can very hazardous to pets. Holidays are one of the busiest times of the year in emergency veterinary clinics, because there are so many dangers for pets, and their owners don't have the time to supervise them as well as they should. Keep your Fido safe this Halloween by following some of these tips and tricks.
Did you have a chance to catch last week's column about breed specific legislation and restrictions?
Let's talk about some of the most obvious culprits first
First and foremost, everyone knows that chocolate can be toxic to dogs, but do you know why? Chocolate comes from the roasted seeds of theobroma cacao, which contains two properties that can be toxic to animals: theobromine and caffeine. If ingested, both of these ingredients can cause many medical issues and even be fatal to your dog. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures.
Dogs are curious and they have a powerful sense of smell. These two things combined can be very dangerous. If you're handing out candy to trick-or-treaters be sure that you keep the bowl of candy up out of the reach of your pet at all times. If you have children in your house make sure that you put the candy they collect in a safe place where your dog will not be able to reach it.
Ingestion of candy is the #1 Halloween hazard for dogs. Do not let your children, even older children, take their candy into their room or hide it in their own special spot. Often times they will hide it in areas that are low to the ground including under their bed or on a low shelf. Your dog will easily be able to sniff out these treats and could end up making himself very sick.
Did you know that xylitol is also a common sweetener used in candy? If you follow pet related news at all, you probably already know that this chemical can be toxic to dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. Xylitol toxicity is a very dangerous problem and can quickly result in death if not treated in time.
Keep the number for the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline on hand: 1-888-426-4435. The hotline charges a fee of $65 per case. If you believe your pet has eaten something that's bad for him, call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Center immediately.
Candy wrappers can be just as dangerous to your dog as the candy itself. Wrappers still have the delicious scent of candy and chocolate on them, and your dog may think it is a yummy snack. If swallowed these wrappers can cause life threatening intestinal blockages that could require surgery to remove.
Another one of the most obvious Halloween hazards for dogs is costumes – and not just their own. Glow sticks are commonly used for decorations and as an accessory for many costumes. Dogs that are a little curious or love to chew may be attracted to glow sticks. If a glow stick ruptures, the chemicals inside can cause pain and irritation to your dog's mouth.
If you choose to dress your dog in a costume, that may also pose a bit of a hazard. You'll need to be sure that the costume is safe and comfortable for your Fido before you force him to wear it. The material should be soft with no fittings, buttons or rough areas that could scratch or dig into your pet's skin and irritate him. The costume should fit properly as well. Costumes that are too tight may be uncomfortable and costumes with loose fitting pieces may be a hazard if they get caught on something.
It's also important to make sure that an ID tag and collar are part of your dog's costume. You may think it ruins the costumes effect, but it's crucial to keep a collar on your dog and to make sure that he has updated ID tags on also. Holidays, especially Halloween, are a common time for dogs to go missing. Typically there will be a lot of people around you, and most of them will be dressed in scary or intimidating costumes. Even the most well-behaved dog may run away under those circumstances.
Your dog may not be safe inside either
Maybe you're the type that stays home and hands out candy on Halloween. You don't dress up your dog and you don't leave the house, so you assume your pet is safe. Not so fast! Halloween hazards for dogs can be found in your home too. For starters, think about the anxiety and stress that your dog is under with so many people ringing your doorbell or knocking on your door.
To be safe you should have a way to keep your dog contained in an area away from your front door. A crate or pet gate would work well. Some dogs may run when they are scared, and seeing a group of kids in unfamiliar costumes could terrify your dog and send him bolting out the door. Even the most well socialized pets can have a hard time coping with all the extra stimulation on Halloween.
Decorations can also be a hazard for pets. Especially low hanging electrical wires and open flames. If you have a curious dog that likes to chew he may get his paws on extension cords, string lights or other decorations that require electricity. This can be fatal if your pet chews through the wire while it is plugged in.
Jack o' lanterns are one of the most popular Halloween decorations, and what good is a jack o' lantern without a light? This year consider using battery operated lights instead of lit candles. They are not only safer for your pets, but also for the children that will be visiting your home. It's not just the heat of the flame that you need to worry about. Candles can be knocked over easily and if that were to happen you'd have a much bigger problem than a dog with a singed tail.
Let's not forget about pranksters. You never know what types of tricks people are up to on Halloween, and it's best to keep a close eye on your pet. You don't want your Fido to pay the price for a poorly timed firecracker or a dog-napping gone wrong. Halloween is a time for fun and games, but not everyone's idea of fun is the same. Don't let your pet outside without keeping a close eye on him. In fact, it may be best to keep your dog on a leash on Halloween night, even if you're in your own yard.
Halloween can be a lot of fun for trick-or-treaters and for those that choose to stay home. Even if you don't celebrate the holiday, many people do. Take proper precautions to keep your pet safe, comfortable and happy. Planning ahead will keep your dog safe from neighborhood pranksters, and as long as you keep the treats out of his reach he should survive the night without getting a bellyache.
Share your own experience and tips.
Do you have any specific tips to share with our readers on what should dog owners pay extra attention to during the holiday? What Halloween hazards have you encountered before and what precautions are you taking today to prevent your Fido from hurting himself or causing trouble?