Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

“HOWL”-O-WEEN  Safety Tips

Halloween is just a few short weeks away!  While you’re finishing up the decorating, costumes and preparations for all the trick-or-treaters, let’s spend just a few minutes discussing the possibility of a safe and happy Halloween for your pets.

While we are busy consuming chocolate, sweets and candies, let’s not forget that many of these are highly toxic to dogs and cats.  My own dog, Hank, had a hankerin’ for something sweet a few years ago and ate an entire Hershey’s bar.  Luckily, this wasn’t enough to cause agitation, heart problems, seizures and death (which are all possible), but he did have an upset stomach for a few days! Needless to say, I learned that my 40 pound dog will happily hop onto the coffee table to devour a treat!

Baking and dark chocolates are very dangerous to dogs who cannot metabolize the caffeine-like compounds in the chocolate.  But, there are artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol that are also very dangerous to dogs.  Xylitol behaves like blood sugar without being blood sugar.  This causes an increase in insulin, but no fuel for the fire so dogs actually get low blood sugar!  Low blood sugar can cause seizures and be life-threatening!  Be careful with sugar-free gum and other artificially sweetened treats!

Some Halloween decorations can mimic mouthwatering morsels that your dog or cat may want to ingest.  Decorative corn, pumpkins, seasonal flowers and other things aren’t always directly toxic, but can cause upset stomachs and foreign bodies that have to be surgically removed.  Pumpkins with candles can be easily knocked over by pets!  Use caution when leaving pets unattended by open flames.

Many of us like to place some decorative lighting through the house to set the festive mood.  But, Feisty Fido may want to take a nibble on the cords.  Electrical burns in the mouth are very painful and can require placing a feeding tube, but getting electrocuted can be more serious than just burns.  Be cautious with the cords!  Glow-sticks are very popular during this time of the year as well.  While the liquids in glow-sticks are rarely toxic, they do taste very badly.  Greedy the German Shepherd could drool and feel sick for several hours if she eats some.

Canine costumes and feline formal wear are growing in popularity!  Dachshunds in hotdog buns, bumblebee Bulldogs and clown cats are all excellent ideas; however, not all dogs and cats enjoy being dressed up.  Unnecessary stress can happen, despite our best intentions, so have a trial run with your pet’s costume.  If Piggy the Pug doesn’t want to be dressed as pirate, we may need to find other ways to celebrate.  If your dog does enjoy wearing a costume, make sure that there are not any small pieces, dangling items, sharp points or constricting areas.  Most veterinarians have seen animals in constricting materials that have caused severe injuries.  Costumes can cause foreign bodies that may require surgical removal too.

One of my favorite parts of Halloween is getting to see all the different costumes and the excitement from the trick-or-treaters!  Children love to show off their new costumes.  Our pets can get quite stressed out with all the comings and goings.  Too many strangers in a short period of time can be very stressful on some animals and even the best trained and sweetest dogs can be scared by a stranger in a costume.  Your dog or cat may even act aggressive if scared.  During busiest hours, Frankie the feline may need to be in a separate room, even if they’re social normally.  This is especially true if you have a shy or cautious animals.

Make sure that Dodgy the dog doesn’t dart out the door when you open it!  Keeping IDs (collars and microchips) on your animals at all times can help return them to you safely should they escape.  Outdoor-only animals may need to be placed inside during times when children are trick-or-treating. Outdoor pets could startle children and they could injure themselves or the children in the process.  Outdoor cats, especially black ones, have unfortunately been involved in cruelty-related incidents on or around Halloween!  Minimize the risk by keeping them inside for several days before and after the haunted holiday.

While Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year, there are several important factors to consider for our pets.  Decorations and treats are often toxic, costumes and strangers can be scary and costumes can be constricting.  Keeping these things in mind can help you and your pet have a Happy Halloween!

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