Thanks to social media, we’re all more aware of how stressful New Year’s and the Fourth of July can be for pets with noise phobias. Halloween can similarly trigger anxiety for some pets, and elderly or chronically ill animals may be even more sensitive. Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to ensure a fun holiday for all. We’ll also discuss some safety tips and give you low-down on that infamous holiday treat, chocolate, plus a less-known but deadly toxin found in some candies and gum.
Ask yourself how your pet normally responds to visitors to the home. Is she territorial, delighted to welcome strangers, or petrified by anyone new? Only the most social pets should be involved in the festivities, and even then, they should be secured with a leash or in a crate.
These are factors that can make Halloween the not-so-fun kind of scary for animals:
- Unusual or triggering noises, like the doorbell, kids shouting “trick or treat!” or if you or your neighbors pull out all the stops, loud music and sound effects. Other stimuli such as new smells or flashing lights could also be unsettling to some pets
- Strangers and high levels of activity around the home. Even people known to the animal who are not recognizable in costume may be frightening
- Disruptions to the routine during trick-or-treating, if that’s the time the pet normally takes meals, enjoys quiet time, or goes for an evening walk
Have you heard tales of humans performing remarkable feats, such as lifting a car to free a loved one? Adrenaline can be powerful, and pets in fight-or-flight mode can surprise even the most attentive caregivers by jumping fences or clearing barriers that would normally hold them. Animal companions who don’t absolutely LOVE company and new experiences should be secured in a room or crate away from the activity. Windows should be closed, and if appropriate, white noise or calming music used to help drown out unusual sounds. Read more about creating a safe space for stressful times.
Other Safety Considerations
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435. Or download their app.
It seems like almost everyone knows that chocolate can be hazardous to pets, but type and quantity matter. Here’s how much chocolate could potentially harm a 22 lb pet.
- Milk chocolate – 3 ounces
- Dark chocolate – 1 1/4 ounces
- Semi-sweet chocolate (typical in chocolate chips) – 1 ounce
- Baking chocolate (used in recipes, not found in candy) – 0.4 ounces
- Dry cocoa powder (for recipes) – 1/4 ounce
Signs of chocolate toxicity start with vomiting and diarrhea at lower doses, and can escalate to tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms and death.
Xylitol is a natural non-calorie sweetener found in reduced calorie snacks, sugarless gum, toothpaste, other foods, and some household products. The only way to know whether xylitol is present is to read the ingredients. Even smaller amounts can cause life-threatening low blood sugar in as little as fifteen minutes after ingestion, and higher doses can cause fatal liver failure. Xylitol ingestion by pets is a true emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Other candy “hazards”
Dogs are not known for their self restraint, and given the opportunity to raid the candy bowl, many will keep eating until either it’s all gone, or they’re feeling seriously ill. All that fat and sugar can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis. Some pets will also indiscriminately eat the wrappers, which could cause a bowel obstruction. Store that candy out of reach!
Glow sticks and glow jewelry are relatively non-hazardous. Cats are more likely than dogs to bite into them, as they like to bat them around like prey. The chemical compound is nontoxic, but it’s VERY bitter, which will cause pets to drool excessively and act oddly (and yes, glow). Larger glow sticks may contain a glass vial that is broken when the reaction is activated. Here’s what to do.
Costumes and Decorations
No doubt about it, animals in costumes are adorable. It’s important to gauge your pet’s reaction to the outfit – this should be a fun activity for them as well. While it may seem funny to watch a cat struggling with a silly hat, it can be terrifying to them, and disrupt your bond by undermining their trust in you. If the pet doesn’t immediately try to remove the costume, give them plenty of time to get used to it before Halloween. Never leave pets unsupervised while wearing a costume.
- Should fit properly and comfortably
- Have no pieces that can easily be chewed off
- Shouldn’t interfere with your pet’s sight, hearing, breathing, opening its mouth, or moving
Rules for decorations aren’t any different than normal pet-proofing, but here are some reminders:
- Cover and secure wires and electrical cords out of reach if your pet likes to chew on them
- Decorations shouldn’t include pieces that could be bitten off and eaten
- Strings, ribbon, and tinsel are especially dangerous for cats if swallowed
What if my pet escapes?
Even if you do everything you can to secure your pet and prevent escapes, you should be prepared for the unexpected.
- Always ensure your pet has a collar and ID tag – the single most important thing you can do to ensure they get home quickly and safely
- Have your pet microchipped – this is NOT a substitute for an ID tag, but an “insurance policy” and proof of ownership in case anything happens to the ID while they are lost
- Make sure your contact information on the microchip and ID tag are up-to-date. Most chips are manufactured by AVID (call 1-800-336-2843 to update) or HomeAgain. If you know the microchip number but aren’t sure who manufactured it, you can look it up here. If you don’t know the number, any veterinary clinic or shelter will be able to scan it for you. On Oahu, check out Hawaiian Humane’s tips for keeping information current and make sure your pet’s chip information is in their database for Lost and Found.
With a little advance preparation, you can ensure scary fun for all this Halloween. May your holiday be full of treats and not too many tricks!