Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween Safety Tips
19 Oct 2015

Trick or Treat….Is This Something Good to Eat?

Halloween is just around the corner and everyone is getting ready for fun festivities!  By the time the big night rolls around at the end of October, many homes will be bursting with holiday treats, spooky decorations and even an alcoholic beverage or two. Some of us “pet parents” are gearing up as well, buying or making treats to give out to neighborhood dogs that might “trick or treat” alongside their human counterparts. It all sounds like great fun and games, but is it? Keep on reading to learn about Halloween Safety Tips for pets.

October 31 and November 1 are very busy days and nights for veterinarians all over the world. This is because many pets are exposed to holiday things that are harmful.  A few examples that pet parents should be mindful of include:

Decorations

Decorations are half the fun on Halloween. These may not be so much fun if they become lodged in your cat or dog’s digestive tract and require surgery for removal!  One of the most common Halloween decoration to be eaten by a pet is the soft, cottony filament that is used as “faux-spider webs”. This stretchy, stringy material is fun to put on doorframes and outdoor plants. Cats think that this material is fun and many decide it is tasty too!  Young puppies and kittens are most likely to eat spider-web material, so keep it out of reach for safety’s sake. Electrical cords are also a decoration hazard, as many people like to light up their windows before the trick-or-treaters arrive.

Chocolate

Chocolate toxicity is very common around the holidays, especially Halloween. Children are prone to “sharing” with their dog after a night out collecting candy. Chocolate is always a no-no for all dogs, as it contains a toxic compound, theobromine, which can cause digestive upset, pancreatitis, heart problems, seizure and death.  White chocolate is the least toxic and baking chocolate is the most dangerous. The higher the cocoa content, the more lethal. A good reference for chocolate’s toxic levels can be found here through VSPN’s Chocolate Toxicity Calculator.

 

Dogs and Halloween

Xylitol

Baked goods are mostly harmless if accidentally eaten, as long as they don’t contain chocolate or xylitol!  Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used instead of sugar in many candies, baked goods, toothpastes and even peanut butter!  A small amount of ingested xylitol causes a massive release of insulin from the dog’s pancreas, leading to a dramatic drop in blood glucose. This low blood glucose, called hypoglycemia, can be life-threatening. If your dog gets into something this Halloween, check the labels and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins are in most homes with children, as they make a delicious snack.  Small boxes of raisins are popular goodies given out during “trick or treating.”  Raisins and grapes contain a toxic compound that causes kidney failure. Even 1 or 2 raisins is enough to put a 20-pound dog in the hospital! If you have dogs and children, check their goodie stash and put all raisins (and chocolate!) out of Fido’s reach.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are popular additions to cookies during the holidays. They may be given out during trick or treating in locations such as Hawaii, where they are plentiful. While they are delicious to you and me, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.  After ingestion, signs of toxicity can last up to 48 hours and include tremors, rear limb weakness, muscle pain and fever.

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‘Adult’ Beverages

Halloween is not just a holiday for children, many adults spend a lot of time planning the perfect party.  Most Halloween parties involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Some of these may not taste too good to the family dog, but others may seek out a sip or two. People also do crazy things when they’ve had too much to drink and may think it is funny to fill the dog’s water bowl with beer. Doing this can be very dangerous!  Ethanol (“drinking alcohol”) can cause vomiting, dehydration, incoordination, stupor, coma and death in dogs.  Keep your dogs safe while the party is going on by keeping a close eye on them and your guests, keeping beverages out of their reach or simply putting them to bed early before the party starts.

Common Sense

Most Halloween accidents with pets are preventable with a little planning and common sense. Keep your children’s candy stored securely, locked up in a high cupboard. Teach your children not to share their candy with the dog. Cover electrical cords and keep curious dogs out of the punch bowl. If the unthinkable does happen, keep your veterinarian’s phone number close at hand. If you think that your dog or cat may have eaten something dangerous, it is best to be safe and contact your vet straight away. Happy Halloween!

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Deborah Shores

Deborah Shores, DVM, is an American Veterinarian and a 2008 graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, minor in Chemistry, from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, USA. As a child, she was obsessed with horses and received her very own mare, named Ivy, at the age of 10. She wanted to become a vet at the age of 13, when her beloved horse had to undergo a complicated eye surgery at the University of Georgia. The veterinary surgeons allowed her to watch the procedure in the operating theatre and she was hooked! As a military spouse, she has lived throughout the USA, in Poland and Japan. In the last 6 years, Dr. Shores has worked as a clinical veterinarian for dogs, cats, small mammals and non-human primates (macaque monkeys) and as a freelance writer. She has also taught anatomy and physiology as an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. Her passion is educating animal lovers about pet care and common animal diseases. She currently has two mischievous tabby cats, Hummer and Piper. Both cats are also world travelers and enjoy basking in the warm afternoon sun.

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