Tricky Treats!

Halloween has progressed from a child focused holiday of masked adventure to a full out incognito party for all ages.  Although many of our pets enjoy the extra attention from adoring fans a costume might bring, there are many parts of Halloween that can put your pets at risk.  Monitoring your pet’s reaction to environmental changes is essential to keeping them safe.

Animals that are afraid of people in hats will be particularly frightened by the myriad costumes parading around. If your pet is afraid of flapping material, costumes or loud sounds then it’s best and safest to keep them away from the celebrations. Dogs who feel the doorbell is a call to duty and want to greet or investigate every arrival may be over-stimulated by the number of visitors and frightened by the appearance and behavior of some of the guests reaching in, dressed oddly, and carrying noisy bags or lights.  Animals that are naturally shy or cautious should be given a favorite chew toy and kept away from this excess stimulus. Dogs that are prone to want to protect the family will be particularly stressed by what they see as a threat to you at every ring of the doorbell—so again, keep them in a quiet part of the house.

Candy can be a risk to pets for three reasons: chocolate is toxic, low calorie sweetener is toxic and the wrappers or sticks from lollipops can mechanically traumatize the intestines or cause blockage.  Chocolate contains a substance called Theobromine which is like caffeine and will create vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rate and if the dose is high enough – death. Darker chocolate and higher doses pose more danger to your pet. If in doubt call an emergency clinic to discuss any dose or exposure.  Xylitol is a non-calorie sweetener that causes a life threatening release of insulin and therefore very low blood sugar in dogs and can be toxic to the liver as well in both dogs and cats. If your pet has been exposed to this substance a visit to the emergency clinic is indicated.  The wrappers, sticks and paraphernalia around Halloween candy can cause obstruction or trauma to the esophagus, stomach or intestines. So keep your pets away from all tricky treats.

Cats can be a little more sensitive to the chaos around the home on Halloween. So if you have a cat that will not be stressed by restriction to a safe part of the house keeping them indoors is best. Unfortunately the world still contains people who might chose to traumatize pets on prank-ridden nights like Halloween. Pets—especially black cats — should be safe and cozy indoors for the night before you go to bed to make sure the entire family has a safe holiday.

Costumes for pets are fun and entertaining but make sure that your pet is not becoming stressed from either wearing a costume or being paraded in front of many people.  Frightened or frustrated animals can become aggressive if they have no other outlet for their emotions.

Halloween is a fun holiday and seeing the creative approach to costumes for both people and pets can be entertaining. Make sure the fun part stays that way for your pet by keeping them safe from stress and harm.

Blog Post Author: 

Merrianne Burtch, DVM, DACVIM