10 Pet Safety Tips for Halloween

With all the hustle and bustle occurring around Halloween, pets like cats and dogs can simply be overlooked at trick-or-treat time. Most pet owners know about the dangers of chocolate, but they may not be aware of the many other risks that do exist. That’s why it may be best to keep that Halloween candy up and away from all pets. Pet owners who do suspect their pet has ingested something harmful should contact their veterinarian immediately. Quick treatment can sometimes be a lifesaver. Below are 10 tips for pet owners to keep in mind come Halloween time, starting with one about chocolate just as a reminder.

10 Tips on Halloween Hazards for Pets

  1. Chocolate is only for humans – never animals and pets. As many pet owners know, cats and dogs have difficulty metabolizing chocolate, but as the Pet Poison Helpline points out it’s not that one small chocolate chip that is necessarily dangerous, but the overall amount and type of chocolate consumed. Certain types of chocolate, like dark chocolate, are considerably more dangerous than lighter, sweeter types. The danger comes from the chemical theobromine, which is similar to caffeine, according to Animal Planet. Pets simply metabolize theobromine much slower than humans and this slow digestive process can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, hyperactivity, vomiting, high blood pressure, seizures, cardiac arrest, and occasionally, death. Dog owners may need to be more vigilant about chocolate than cat owners simply because cats are pickier eaters.

  2. Pick up those candy wrappers. As if it’s not annoying for adults and parents to find kids’ candy wrappers all over the table or floor, they also need to be aware of the dangers those wrappers present to pets, particularly dogs. (Again, because dogs may be more likely to consume these things than cats). When swallowed, cellophane, foil and other types of wrappers can block the bowels of an animal and even cause an obstruction. As the website Mercola.com points out, these obstructions can be life threatening and potentially result in the need for surgery.

  3. Keep the raisins out of the way, too.Most pet owners know how dangerous chocolate can be to pets, but fewer may be aware of the risks that raisins (think chocolate-covered raisins) can cause. In fact, raisins and grapes can lead to kidney failure in dogs and, it’s presumed, other types of pets. The exact reason for this is unknown, but researchers have surmised that a mycotoxin caused by a fungus or mold could be part of the problem. The number of documented illnesses and deaths caused by raisins and grapes among dogs has been on the rise, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, and vomiting and excessive thirst and urination are signs of poisoning. Complete kidney failure could occur within one to three days.

  4. Too much candy is not just bad for humans, but for pets too.Sure, come Halloween, no one wants their kids to overeat, but the same can be true for pets, especially dogs. In fact, as Mercola.com indicates, candy is loaded with sugar and fats that can be problematic for a pet’s digestive system. Candy can also lead to a serious condition, known as pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. As in humans, continual inflammation of the pancreas can cause serious and permanent damage. In pets, pancreatitis can take two to four days to show its effects.

  5. Beware of the xylitol. No, that’s not a new-fangled superhero. It’s a sugar substitute that is showing up in an assortment of food products such as baked goods, gum, mints and sugar-free candy. Pet owners should make sure on Halloween that treats with xylitol are kept far away from their pets. Even a small amount can lead to a sudden decrease in blood sugar or cause acute liver failure. In fact, xylitol affects various animals differently, but in dogs and ferrets is absorbed quite rapidly, according to the FDA. Signs of illness, such as vomiting, can appear within minutes.

  6. Glo-sticks are for kids and not for pets. Glow-in-the-dark jewelry and glo-sticks are becoming more popular as Halloween giveaways. While these may be popular with kids, pet owners should definitely keep them away from their pets, particularly cats, which like to chew on them, according to Mercola.com. The glow comes from the substance phenol, and signs of phenol poisoning can include inflammation of the mouth, diarrhea, and vomiting. In fact, some 70 percent of calls to the Pet Poison Helpline over a year’s time were related to glo-sticks and glow-y objects as chewed on by or eaten by cats.

  7. Keep an eye on that pet costume. Many pet owners like to pick out cute costumes for their pets to wear on Halloween, but these can cause a pet to overheat if not properly selected. As well, any beads, baubles and bows on the costume can also present a threat to pets especially those that like to chew and swallow such items.  As the Pet Poison Helpline points out, some of these items can prevent additional hazards: those made of lead or zinc are considerably poisonous.

  8. Make sure candles are away from pets. Even though many homeowners use electric candles and lighting these days, they may still be tempted to light a candle inside of a pumpkin or around the house for that extra eerie effect. Petinsurance.com indicates that candles can both burn or be ingested by a curious pet. Swallowing a candle can also cause choking and obstruction of the digestive system, quickly turning a Halloween celebration into a nightmare.

  9. Watch pets carefully at the door and outside.There may be a reason why animal shelters experience an uptick in new arrivals the days following Halloween, as Mercola.com points out. Halloween can make it easy for pets to escape. Homeowners should make sure that their pet’s collar has an ID tag and the information on a microchip has been updated. As well, pet owners taking a dog out trick-or-treating should have them on a leash to prevent them from being spooked or running off, Petinsurance.com suggests. Also, pet owners who take a pet out may want to consider the benefit of putting reflective tape on a pet costume.

  10. Keep an eye out on a pet’s stress level.Just like kids, pets can become overtired from a long evening that includes continual knocking on the door, incessant bell-ringing, lots of different faces and costumes, and heightened levels of noise and excitement. This stimulation can be significant and even overwhelming, and for pets, like supersensitive cats, it can lead to stress on the nervous system. To prevent this, pet owners might consider putting their pet in a different room on Halloween or consider a baby gate to help keep them away from the excitement at the front door, recommends Paw Nation.

Barry Franklin (Editor)

Barry is the Managing Editor of VetTechColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University. He presently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family and their black maltipoo.