Trick or Treat!
As a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I can remember planning costumes for weeks, and my sister and I would go to everyone’s house in the neighborhood – alone! My parents never went with us, and they never worried about us being out. After we collected our haul from the neighborhood, we would go over to Aunt Blanche and Uncle Tom’s house. They weren’t really related to us, but they were family friends. Aunt Blanche made homemade candy apples and caramel apples, and Uncle Tom roasted fresh peanuts. The best thing of all, though, was bobbing for apples. Such great fun! However, as an adult, I would no more let my children come in contact with all of those germs in that tub full of apples than the man in the moon! Gross!
So, Halloween obviously has lots of good memories for me, but this week, I want to talk about Halloween for our four-legged babies, because it isn’t quite as much fun for them.
As much as we all enjoy dressing up, our four-legged friends aren’t quite as crazy about it. If you decide to dress them up, make sure that their costume fits and isn’t too tight. It shouldn’t be too big, or someone might step on the costume and trip your pet. If the costume has lots of small pieces attached, your dog pet may try to eat it, causing an intestinal obstruction. Edible costumes (like a t-shirt with Nerds all over it) are obviously a no-no! The costume shouldn’t impair their vision (i.e., a mask) as that could frighten your pet. Face painting may be fun for people, but be careful of paints and dyes that can be toxic to pets.
Home, Sweet Home
When those trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell constantly, some pets will become frightened. They may try to bolt out the door, and then, they are at increased risk of getting lost or of being hit by a car. Please consider confining pets to an interior room in the house or a crate. Even outdoor dogs in a fenced yard should come in for the night to prevent them from being accidentally let out, and outdoor cats, especially black ones, should be kept inside.
Jack-o-lanterns may look cool and scary, but pets can knock them over, causing the candle inside to burn them, their costume, or even your house. Cobwebs are pretty gruesome looking, but cats are notoriously fascinated with string. If they ingest the string, it can cause intestinal obstruction.
Trick or Treating
Taking our dogs around the neighborhood sounds like fun, especially if our costumes match. However, remember that the dogs may get very excited. If they get frightened or startled by other trick-or-treaters, they could bite because of fear, and a dog bite is always a serious matter for both pet owner and pet. You will be held liable. You will also want to make sure you and your pet have on reflective gear if you go out and about together to decrease your risk of being hit.
The obvious reason that we go trick-or-treating is for CANDY and lots of it. Now, cats aren’t terribly interested in candy, but our dogs can (and often will) consume large quantities quickly, which can make them sick. Candy ingestion can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and it can be severe enough to lead to an ER visit.
Certain candies are also toxic to our pets. Chocolate is the biggest culprit here. As you all know, chocolate is not created equally when it comes to toxicity. The problem with chocolate is the methylxanthines (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline), and the darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines that it contains. Milk chocolate contains approximately 60 mg/ounce. Semi-sweet (“dark”) chocolate contains 150 mg/ounce, and baker’s chocolate contains 450 mg/ounce. With ingestion of 20 mg/kg of chocolate, clinical signs are usually mild and consist of vomiting and diarrhea. With 40 mg/kg, restlessness and hyperactivity are seen. With 50 mg/kg, dogs can develop a rapid heart rate or cardiac arrhythmias. At 60 mg/kg, seizures can be seen, and at 100 mg/kg, approximately 50% of dogs will die. Your veterinarian likely has a chocolate toxicity table or calculator to help you determine if your pet has ingested enough chocolate to warrant an ER visit, and it can take up to 4 days for the effects of chocolate to wear off.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is present in many sugar-free candies and gum, including sugar-free Life Savers and Werther’s candies. This is safe for people, but it causes profound hypoglycemia in dogs and cats. It can also cause liver failure.
Well, I hope that you and your pets have a safe and Happy Halloween next week! Try not to eat too much candy, and don’t share with your four-legged friends.