Halloween can be a fun time filled with candy and costumes. But it can also be dangerous for pets. To find out how to keep your keep your pets safe this weekend, we reached out to Dr. Jennifer Jones Shults, who owns a 24/7 emergency and rehabilitation practice in Cary.
What type of dangers exist for pets during Halloween?
Dr. Shults: We recommend informing kids that treats are just for people, and using dog-specific treats. Drastic changes in environment are stressful for pets – so decorations often pose a threat. Fake spiders may be viewed as life-threatening targets, lit candles can be harmful to birds if scented, rubber eyeballs pose choking risks, fake cobwebs can choke or entangle pets, and potpourri is toxic to birds. Other potentially harmful objects include glowsticks and candy wrappers, as the bright, shiny qualities can be attractive to pets.
Costumes can also present a threat, especially if the owner does not consider how it may impair their pet’s vision or airways. Small pieces may snap, which could be made of harmful substances if ingested. We also recommend asking your veterinarian before dying your pets fur.
Tips from the ASPCA include keeping chocolate and other candy away from pets in a secure location, and encourage pet owners to remain mindful of carved pumpkins and candles, that can easily singe/burn curious pets or even start a fire. They recommend keeping pets in a separate room during trick or treating hours to prevent stress/anxiety from not-as-social pets and prevent them from darting out of the door.
What foods should pets absolutely avoid?
Dr. Shults: Any change to your pet’s diet is potentially harmful; small amounts of cooked pumpkin is generally ok. We suggest avoiding salty snacks such as chips and popcorn, as they can lead to dehydration. Onions and garlic can cause blood cell problems; spicy or fatty foods can cause GI upset as well.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, foods such as chocolate and raisins are extremely poisonous to dogs and can result in immensely serious health complications including tremors, seizures, and kidney failure. Ingesting candy can cause harmful effects as well, from mild GI upset to potentially life-threatening pancreatitis.
Here is another list of various foods pets should avoid in general, from the ASPCA. Relevant to the article: candy, gum (especially sugar-free), molding foods, Sugar-free substances (the artificial sweetener often used is extremely toxic to pets), certain leaves and stems, raisins.
What should you do if your pet consumes something they shouldn’t have?
Dr. Shults: Call your veterinarian immediately, or your local emergency veterinary hospital after-hours who can give general advice. The ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline is a great resource if your pet ingests medications.
If loud noises or constant doorbell ringing from trick or treaters is a concern, what can owners do to help calm their pets?
Dr. Shults: Keep pets in a separate room of the house away from the door, or in a comfortable crate with toys, treats, and calming music (ASPCA).
Try gradually introducing the sounds of doorbells or other loud, triggering noises to your pets by playing the sounds softly and gradually increasing the volume over a period of days. Implement a reward system for your pet. A great training website developed by Dr. Sophia Yin is https://drsophiayin.com/resources/dog_behavior/, especially the Learn to Earn Program.
Asking your veterinarian about medications to provide a mild calming effect for your pet – there are several medications that are safe to use in stressful situations, but they should be given 1-2 hours in advance of the event if possible. Your veterinarian can recommend the safest option for your pet.
Dr. Shults is the Immediate Past-President of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, and owns a 24/7 emergency practice in Cary.