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Creature Feature:
Halloween Safety for Pets

by Linda Jenkinson

black cat

Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday, after Christmas(1), but like many holidays, it can be a high-stress time for our pets.

  • » Loud noises from firecrackers to screams and shouts fill the evening air.
  • » Strangers and seldom-seen friends ring our doorbells and knock on our doors.
  • » Costumed friends and family look and smell different to our pets. Even our children's identities are hidden beneath masks and costumes as they return home with enticing bags of "something" that is hands off to our pets.

When you think about it, Halloween is truly a spooky night for pets, but we can use a few simple tricks to make the holiday more of a treat for them.

Dressed to Excess

We often fool ourselves into believing if it's fun for us, it must be fun for our pets, but that's not always true. Costuming our pets is one example.

Don't force your pet to wear a costume. You can tell if a costume is making them uncomfortable by paying attention to their body language. The Humane Society reminds us that signs of discomfort include folded down ears, eyes rolling back or looking sideways, a tucked tail and hunching over. Forget the hair dye. While it may not be toxic for humans it may be toxic to your pet.

The ASPCA recommends, "If you do dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow. Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard."

Keep Pets Inside

Although it may be fun for you to dress your pet up and take him trick or treating, it won't be fun for him. The noises, the smells, and the strangers are all foreign to your pets. You risk having an over stimulated animal jump on, scratch, or nip at the wrong person, a mistake that could be deadly for them. You also risk your pet eating a discarded piece of candy or a candy wrapper, either of which could result in digestive problems or worse, be toxic.

In your home, secure pet doors to be sure that pets can't escape into the night. However, the best laid plans can run afoul. Add an extra layer of security for your pet by making sure he or she has identifying tags or a microchip.

Turn Down the Noise

"Fat chance," you say and you really can't turn it down, but you can muffle it. During high-volume trick or treat times, help them feel secure. Keep dogs and cats in their crates (if they are crate trained) or put them in a comfortable room with the door shut. The background noise of a television or radio will mask outside noise and add an extra layer of security for them.

Give them something to do with chew toys, treat-fillable toys, or other favorite toys.

We all want to believe that our angelic pets will always be angelic, but too much noise and too many strangers at the door can activate the fight or flight response. Taking your pet out of the action will keep Fido or Fluffy out of harm's way in two ways:

  1. You will not need to worry about a defensive attack.
  2. Your pet will not be able to slip out the door.

Tricky Treats

During the week of Halloween, calls to the Pet Poison Helpline increase by 12 percent, making it the call center’s busiest time of year.

Chocolates, grapes, raisins, candies sweetened with the artificial sweetener, xylitol are all dangerous for animals as are plastic coated or cellophane candy wrappers and sucker sticks. Party decorations such as balloons, party favors are also enticing toys that can end up in our pets' stomachs.

The scents of autumn are spectacular--cinnamon, nutmeg, bayberry, bergamot, cedar-- but not for your bird. Scented candles and potpourri are both toxic to birds. Candles, bonfires, fireplaces and Jack-o-lanterns may warm our hearts and, at times, our hands, but they pose a real fire hazard to our pets.

Replacing that jack-o-lantern candle with a glow stick may make it safer for kids, but they, too, are toxic to pets. According to the pet poison helpline "Pets, especially cats, love to chew on these items. While not usually life-threatening, their contents can cause pain and irritation in the mouth, as well as profuse drooling and foaming at the mouth."

If the worst should happen, make sure you have the phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center close at hand. They charge a $49.00 fee per incident, but it's a small price to pay to save your best friend's life.

24/7 Animal Poison Control Center: 855-764-7661

Let's talk about it! Please leave your comments below.

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