Halloween is just around the corner. And while it’s an exciting time for little ghosts and goblins, it can cause quite a fright for your dog. Beware of these Halloween hazards so you can protect your pet.
Trick or Retreat!
Halloween is a highlight of the year for children and many adults, but your dog may not agree. An incessantly ringing doorbell, ghosts and ghouls on the porch, unaccustomed guests, and commotion both indoors and out—this can all be very stressful, even for the most laid-back dog. Canine escape artists might be tempted to sneak through open doors and gates to get away from the hubbub. Skittish dogs could be tempted to snap or bite at costumed people. Curious canines could brush by a candle or carved pumpkin, risking singed fur, burns, or starting a fire.
Sadly, there is the rare disturbed individual looking to torture or abduct a family pet found alone outdoors around Halloween time.
Ensure your dog’s comfort and safety around Halloween by keeping them indoors and placing them in a safe room or crate. Use a noise machine to mask sounds, try a soothing classical CD, pop in a “for dogs only” DVD, or turn on DogTV to distract them from the commotion outside. Consider giving your dog a new toy or, in particular, a Kong Blue toy filled with Kong Stuff’n to occupy their attention until the excitement subsides. Natural stress relievers such as Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy or comforting dog pheromone sprays, collars, or diffusers can be very efficacious as well. If you must take your dog outdoors, keep them close at hand and safely on a leash.
No Sweets for the Sweet!
The chocolate in candy and other goodies is probably the best-known Halloween hazard for dogs. Chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine, which is harmless to people but extremely toxic to dogs and other pets. The risk level depends on the type of chocolate, the size of the dog, and how much chocolate is ingested (see table). White chocolate and baked goods (brownies, cookies, cakes) contain lower levels of theobromine and are less hazardous. Milk chocolate contains more, and dark chocolate and baker’s (unsweetened) chocolate contain the most. Small dogs are most at risk by virtue of their size. For instance, while a Hershey bar or two could give an 80-pound Labrador a tummy ache, it could be quite dangerous or deadly for a 10-pound poodle.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include:
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
If your dog may have ingested chocolate and is exhibiting any of these signs, do not delay. Consult your emergency veterinarian immediately.
An emerging safety threat for dogs is xylitol poisoning. Xylitol is the artificial sweetener in some of the sugarless chewing gums, candies, and mints that might be found in your child’s Halloween treat bag. While safe for people, as little as two or three pieces of chewing gum containing xylitol are enough to make a 20-pound dog sick. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly and can cause a precipitous drop in blood sugar as early as 30 minutes after ingestion. Immediate emergency care is needed to prevent blood sugar from going dangerously low. In rare cases and at high doses, xylitol can cause acute liver failure and even death. The chemicals in chocolate and sugarless candy are not the only perils of the trick-or-treat sack. Sweets are generally not good for pets. Plastic and foil wraps ingested by greedy scavengers can upset tummies and even cause intestinal blockage. And if the chocolate in the candy doesn’t make Fido sick, the fat content can. Fatty treats can trigger pancreatitis in susceptible dogs. Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, causes everything from abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea to—in some cases—major organ failure, shock, and death. For these reasons, it’s always wise to keep all candy and goody bags safely out of your dog’s reach. And be sure all little ghosts and goblins abide by these rules too! Your pet deserves pampering over the holiday like other family members, but stick with treats made specifically for dogs.