All holidays pose special hazards for pets, but Halloween is by far the most dangerous one of the year, and parents need to be vigilant about keeping their dogs and cats safe, animal welfare experts warn.
More dogs die or stray during Halloween than any other holiday, according to Liam Crowe, a dog behavioral therapist and CEO of Bark Busters USA, which has 250 franchises nationwide.
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“Halloween is intended to scare and startle us - making it a spooky holiday for dogs, too," he states in a media release. "By being more sensitive to dogs’ fear-driven ‘fight or flight’ instincts, we can help keep our furry friends safe this Halloween.”
Mr. Crow advises bringing dogs indoors and putting them in a separate room where they cannot be harmed, overwhelmed by children in costumes or frightened by all the trick-or-treating activity. A timid, scared or excited dog may dash out the front door, so placing a pet in a quiet, separate room will limit his excitement, aggression and chance of running outside and getting lost or injured.
Pet parents should also reassure their dogs that all is well by simply acting as normal as possible, Mr. Crowe said. Too much reassuring or extra attention may actually make a dog worry that something abnormal is happening, causing a pet to become more frightened.
Mr. Crowe also suggests getting your dog familiar with Halloween costumes or he could regard family members as strangers when they are dressed up. Allow your dog to smell the costumes before the children put them on and keep masks off when the dog is present.
Mr. Crowe discourages pet parents from dressing their dogs in costumes. Some dogs do enjoy being dressed up but many dislike it, so a pet parent should experiment to see if their dog likes being in a costume. If a dog shows resistance, simply tie a fun bandanna around his neck instead.
Pet parents also should be aware of potential poisoning from sweets and other hazards during the Halloween season, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns.
"Many of our favorite Halloween traditions could pose a potential threat to our companion animals," Steven Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist and official at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, states in a media release. "So as you start to make plans for trick-or-treating or Halloween costumes, pet parents should be aware of Halloween-related products and activities that can be potentially dangerous to pets."
According to the ASPCA, Halloween hazards include:
- Sweets. Several treats are toxic to pets. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. Chocolate, especially baker’s and dark chocolate, can be potentially poisonous to animals, especially dogs, and can cause liver damage. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate and even seizures.
- Wrappers. Cats especially love to play with candy wrappers, but ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can cause intestinal blockage and induce vomiting.
- Trick-or-treating. During trick-or-treating hours, keep pets in a room away from your front door to avoid having them run out. Pets should wear a collar with tags and be microchipped.
- Costumes. They can present a suffocation hazard. If you dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit its movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe or bark. Also check the costume for choking hazards. A simple, festive Halloween bandanna is a smart alternative to dressing your pet from head to paw.
- Decorations. Avoid putting candles in jack-o-lanterns. Pets can knock over them over and start a fire. Also, make sure pets have no access to wires and cords from holiday decorations. If chewed, a wire can damage a pet’s mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or deliver a life-threatening electrical shock.
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If a pet accidentally ingests a potentially harmful product, the ASPCA advises pet parents to immediately consult with a veterinarian or call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
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