For weeks, aisles have been lined with Halloween candy, decorations, costumes and the like. It's a fun time of year, and, in most households, things are looking and feeling a bit
more festive. Pets have a natural curiosity about all this new stuff, but it can also make them a bit uneasy. It's important to remember that the things that we humans view as fun can be especially frightening to pets. Costumes, faces painted with make-up and life-sized decorations can startle pets and cause them to behave unpredictably, so introducing Halloween to any pet with mindfulness and a slow pace is important.
- One of the most common activities, carving pumpkins, is a long-held tradition for adults and kids alike. Keep jack-o-lanterns that are lit with candles away from all pets.
- The days preceding and following Halloween often yield pranks — and some are not-so-playful. In fact, they can be cruel, particularly towards pets, and especially black cats. Don't leave pets outside and unattended during this period.
- Strings of lights are popular these days in both indoor and outdoor displays during Halloween. Be sure to always keep cords and wires bundled and out of reach. Watch for decorative plastic pieces that cover the lights. These can look especially inviting to pets, much like their chew toys. Artificial spiders and spiderwebs are enticing, too. Consider them carefully before using.
- With oodles of trick-or-treaters ringing your doorbell, it can be a difficult time for some pets to manage. The noise, the costumes and little ones can be disconcerting for pets. Avoid problems like anxiety and excessive barking by giving your pet a safe, cordoned-off area to stay in during this time. Try a spare room with white noise or a radio playing to buffer the sound at the door, and use a Feliway diffuser or spray for cats, and an Adaptil diffuser or spray for dogs.
- Halloween candy is particularly inviting to pets — some even have penchant for the sweet stuff. Take special care when there is candy around to keep it locked up and away from pets, perhaps in an upper cupboard with a door on it. Dogs and cats are very crafty and can reach counter tops, tables and stove tops. Chocolate is especially toxic to animals, as it contains a component called theobromine.
- Also, xylitol, a sugar substitute found in sugarless gums, candies and other sweet treats poses a special threat to dogs: it's absorbed rapidly into their bloodstream, releases a large amount of insulin, causing extreme hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and can lead to liver failure and even death. Use special care with packs of gum in your purse or in your car's console.
- Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance. They can help guide you, and if you need to have your pet see a veterinarian locally, the APCC can start a case file that can be transferred to that vet. Have your credit card handy, as there is a fee of $65 to do so and is well worth it. Though not a substitute in an emergency, you can also download their mobile app by clicking here.
- Candy wrappers can be a special problem. Foil and cellophane can be fun for pets to play with but can pose serious tummy issues, even a blockage.
- Does your pet like the activity that Halloween brings? Bandanas are a suitable, simple way to have a pet look festive. For the truly adventuresome, it's fun for pets to dress up in made-for-them costumes. But, be sure that they fit properly, that your pet can breathe in the costume and that movement isn't impeded. Consider giving the costume a trial run before the festivities begin to ensure your pet really feels comfortable and that there is no risk of allergy. Avoiding costumes that have small pieces that could be pulled off and choked on is a must, especially for those curious young canines. Bear in mind that some pets are not fond of playing dress up, so if that's the case, be mindful and skip the costume.
Lorrie Shaw is owner of Professional Pet Sitting, where she specializes in ancillary pet palliative and pet hospice care and is also a Certified Pet Loss and Grief Companion. She's a member of Doggone Safe (where she completed the Speak Dog Certificate Program), as well as the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, Pet Sitter International and Pet Professional Guild. She tweets at @psa2.