Pet owners shouldn’t worry about zombies, witches or werewolves this Halloween, because something even more dangerous is out there — candy wrappers, glow sticks and knocks on the door.
Those mundane things don’t sound scary, but any of them could send your dog or cat to the emergency room, say experts from BluePearl Veterinary Partners. That’s why veterinarians are urging pet owners to keep a close eye on their dogs and cats this Halloween to keep them healthy.
“Keep your pets supervised at all times, that’s the best way to make sure they stay safe,” said BluePearl’s Dr. Megan Kaplan, who has cared for many pets over the years after Halloween mishaps.
Kaplan, who is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care, said pet owners should be especially aware of these Halloween hazards:
- The candy: Too much candy can give anyone a bellyache, but it’s important to remember that chocolate actually is toxic to dogs. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea and in high doses can lead to heart arrhythmias and neurological problems. Plus, if a child leaves a bag of treats on the floor, a hungry dog might just swallow all the goodies at once – wrappers and all. This could cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Some of those shiny wrapped goodies can interest cats too, so keep candy covered where pets won’t get into it.
- The sugar-free candy: Granted, most Halloween candy is decidedly not sugar-free. Even so, all dog owners should be very aware of the sugar substitute xylitol, which is used in sugar-free gum and candies and sometimes in baked goods. Xylitol can be deadly in dogs, causing a dangerous drop in blood sugar and possible liver damage. Read labels and keep xylitol away from dogs.
- The ghosts at your door: It’s not haunting that causes danger, but the simple fact that pets are more likely to escape when your front door opens a dozen times for trick-or-treaters. Also, dogs can feel threatened by screaming kids, and in some cases may growl or even bite. Consider keeping your pet in a safe, enclosed room away from the Halloween activities.
- The costumes: Your pets may look adorable when dressed as Elvis or Snow White, but avoid any costumes that are cumbersome or restrict breathing or movement. And don’t keep pets in costume unless you’re there to supervise, Kaplan said. Pets have been known to chew their way out of costumes – which means fabric, buttons and accessories can wind up in stomachs.
- The black cats: They may not cause bad luck, but black cats can be unlucky if left out around Halloween. Unthinking people have been known to catch and harass black cats at this time of year. So even if your black cat is an outdoor cat, keep him in a safe place in the days around this holiday. This is a good idea for other pets as well. “Unfortunately, some people are not nice and black cats can be a target,” Kaplan said.
If you think your pet has eaten something dangerous, act quickly. “Call your veterinarian or the animal poison control hotlines,” Kaplan said. It’s a good idea to keep these numbers on your refrigerator or by the phone.
Remember, most BluePearl hospitals are open 24 hours per day, with veterinarians always on hand to deal with emergencies that come up in the dead of Halloween night, or any other time. Many BluePearl veterinarians, such as Kaplan, have received years of additional training to become certified as experts in their veterinary specialties.