Vet Voices

In this month’s animal lesson I would like to talk about an upcoming fun event for adults and children that can often be stressful or dangerous for many pets. That event is Halloween. Here are a few precautions you can take to keep your pets safe on that occasion.

Careful with costumes

There is nothing cuter than seeing a little wiener dog walking around in a hot dog bun costume, but most pets do not like being dressed up. Keep costumes simple, comfortable and not too tight. Make sure they have no strings, ties or small pieces that could be eaten, and never leave pets alone with their costumes on. Consider buying them a Halloween bandanna or dressing them up only long enough to take a Facebook photo.Hazardous decorationsAvoid having pets around lighted candles and jack-o-lanterns. Dogs can tip them over or burn their noses, and cats can catch their tails on fire.

No candy for pets

One of the biggest potential dangers for pets at Halloween is all that candy, especially chocolate. It can make pets sick and in some cases cause them to die. The effect it has depends on the type of chocolate, the size of the pet, and how much was eaten.Dark chocolates or baking chocolates are the worst. If your pet gets into some chocolate, there is a “Chocolate Toxicity Meter” at PetMD.com that will tell you if you need to worry. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-213-6680.

Another thing to avoid is an artificial sweetener found in some candies, gums and peanut butter called Xylitol. Even small amounts of this chemical can cause dangerous drops in a pet’s blood sugar and lead to weakness, lack of coordination and seizures.

And lastly, avoid giving pets raisins or grapes, because they can be very toxic to their kidneys. If you want to give your pet a treat on Halloween, offer a few pieces of their dry food, cat treats, milk bones, carrots, apples, green beans or a new toy to play with.

Keep pets indoors

Don’t leave pets out in the yard on Halloween. Some pranksters may tease, injure or steal pets on Halloween, so it’s a good idea to keep them indoors when everyone is trick-or-treating. Halloween is the second-most common holiday for pets to get lost (the Fourth of July is the first). Pets often get stressed out by the constant ringing of the doorbell and screams of the trick-or-treaters, so they may suddenly dart out the front door. Be sure they have a collar with ID tag or a microchip for identification.Seeing strangers dressed in creepy costumes may cause a normally friendly dog to bark, lunge or even bite. It’s best to keep pets confined to a room away from the front door. Provide them with their food, water, bed and some treats for a couple of hours. Turn on a TV or radio to drown out noise from the front door. Open the front door as kids approach, or sit out on the porch to eliminate the constant doorbell noise. Some dogs will be more relaxed wearing a Thundershirt, and others might need a pill like we use for storms to stay calm. If your pet is totally freaked out on Halloween, consider boarding it at a kennel for the night.

Here’s hoping some of these tips will make Halloween a little more fun for your feline and a little less frightening for Fido. From all of us at the New Palestine Veterinary Clinic, have a safe and happy Halloween.

Dr. Wes Hildebrandt is a veterinarian at New Palestine Veterinary Clinic.