It’s October, and spooky days are ahead. This month should be about scary tales, not frightened tails. Despite spirited fun, we can still keep Fido and Fluffy safe and happy in the coming weeks. Here are some hints to help.
Trick-or-treat or tricky treat? Kids love Halloween candy. Unfortunately, Fido does, too. Keep Halloween treats out of reach because dogs will help themselves, if given the opportunity. Fortunately, cats lack a sweet tooth, so Fluffy is less tempted.
If your Fido indulges on Halloween goodies, watch him for signs of a stomachache. Decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea would indicate that your pooch doesn’t feel well. Some dogs become quite ill with pancreatitis or bloody diarrhea. Stomachaches are best addressed promptly. Fortunately, outpatient treatment and medicines for doggy tummy aches are readily available and very effective. This may prevent full-blown illness, and it also helps your pet recover and feel better.
In addition to stomachaches, Halloween candies can be poisonous to pets. Despite chocolate’s well-known toxicity in dogs, it is one of the most frequent canine poisons reported every year. Chocolate toxicity is dose-dependent, which means that darker chocolate is more dangerous, and smaller dogs are at greater risk.
Artificial sweeteners are used with increasing frequency and pose additional concerns. Even one or two pieces of sugar-free gum may be hazardous. Initially, the dog’s body is tricked into thinking sugar has been consumed, triggering a cascade of events resulting in dangerously low blood sugar. The second toxic wave is liver damage. Dogs that recover from the low blood sugar crisis require aggressive medical care and liver support for days.
If your Fido sneaks into a stash of Halloween candy, your veterinarian and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) are available to help.
Wrapper woes. Candies come in wrappers, and dogs don’t differentiate. These inedible items may end up in Fido’s stomach, causing vomiting or — worse — an obstruction. Gastrointestinal obstructions in pets are serious and often require surgical intervention. Larger plastic or cellophane goody bags pose suffocation hazards and may be deadly within minutes, so keep those out of Fido’s reach, too.
Spooky décor. As fun as Halloween decorations can be, try to be mindful of your pets. Cats and dogs have their own thoughts on what to do with your decorations. Ribbons, strings and fake skeletons may be too tempting for even the best-behaved pet. Intestinal obstructions are a real danger with decorations. For cats, string foreign bodies are especially hazardous and pose a life-threatening risk. If Halloween decorations are a must for you, try to limit them to areas that are off-limits for Fido and Fluffy.
Costumed cats and dressy dogs. Dressing up for Halloween can be lots of fun. If you choose to include Fido and Fluffy, be sure the activity is safe and stress-free for them. Avoid masks, costumes with strings or tight-fitting outfits. If your pet seems stressed in his costume, be considerate of his feelings and take it off. Signs of stress would include tense posture, lowered ears, shifting eyes, tucked tail or trying to get away. Some pets love their Halloween costumes and comfortably hang out with their humans all evening. Stay attuned to your pet’s signals so that everyone has a fun evening.
Fear is not fun. Although Halloween is all about spooky ghosts and scary goblins, humans know it’s all for fun. Fido and Fluffy, though, haven’t read that memo. The frequent visitors coming to your home, dressed in scary costumes and ringing the doorbell, can be distressing for your pets.
If your pet is anxious or easily frightened, best to keep him confined to a separate room away from the front door. Let your cat or dog find a secluded hiding place in an area where he will feel safe. Anxiety and fear are not fun, and medication may help ease that discomfort. Ask your veterinarian about stress-reducing treatments for pets.
Despite best intentions, pets may escape and get lost on Halloween. The best outfit for your pet on Halloween is identification. Using reflective collars and ID tags with your cellphone number can be helpful. But collars can slip off, leaving your pet vulnerable in the big, scary world.
Microchips are permanent identification. These tiny chips with unique numbers are inserted under your pet’s skin at the neck. Microchips are inexpensive and have reunited thousands of lost pets with their owners.
If your pet is not microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about having this simple outpatient procedure done. If your pet is microchipped, make sure you are properly registered with up-to-date contact information. Otherwise, the microchip will be useless if Fido or Fluffy escapes on Halloween.
This year, avoid the tricks, and treat your pet to a safe Halloween.
Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital at Crossroads Plaza in Salisbury. Do you have questions for her? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.