Halloween can be a fun and exciting time for everyone, especially families with children. ‘Trick or Treating’ has certainly become much more popular in Reading over the last few years and we are even starting to see organised events in some areas. It is lovely to see everyone getting into the Halloween spirit, but please spare a moment to think about your pets and the potential hazards at this time of year.
People, especially strangers, wearing scary costumes and face masks can be very stressful for some pets and both cats and dogs may get upset by the constant knocking on the front door. Some dogs may also become unexpectedly fearful or show aggression when faced with these very odd looking people. Remember that your pets are used to being able to see your face and watch for your facial expressions; when you cover your face with a mask it can be really confusing and sometimes distressing for pets.
Make sure that your pet has a safe and quiet place to retreat to when the trick or treating starts (see our Fireworks article about creating a safe den). If you are going to dress up your pet and have him or her greet any visitors, make sure you monitor your pet for signs of them being uncomfortable or becoming distressed.
Walk your dog earlier in the evening so he or she is not faced with groups of scary and over excited children while out and about. Ensure your pet’s microchip details are up to date and that you dog is wearing his or her collar with ID tag, in case they manage to bolt through an open door.
Chocolate and sweets are not good for our pets so please remember to keep the Halloween treats out of your pet’s reach.
Chocolate is especially toxic to dogs even in small quantities (depending on the type of chocolate). Chocolate poisoning can cause symptoms ranging from mild excitement and tremors to vomiting, diarrhoea and collapse.
Sweets, gums, mints and baked goods containing the “sugar free” sweetener Xylitol can also be poisonous to pets and can cause rapid hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs and possibly other species such as ferrets. Lollipop sticks can also cause dangerous obstructions and may even perforate the bowel if they are swallowed whole.
Pumpkins, lanterns and candles can be a fire risk if they are knocked over by a wagging tail or a scared cat running past, so be wary of where they are placed around the home.
Hot candle wax can cause very nasty burns if it gets spilled on a pet’s coat.
Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are are not toxic to pets but may cause a stomach upset in pets if they are ingested, especially if the corn has been coloured or treated.
Corn cobs are one of the most common foreign bodies that are needed to be surgically removed from dogs who have swallowed them!
Halloween costumes can look great on our pets and there are certainly lots of costumes available to buy at this time of year, but before you dress up your pet you should consider the following:
- A pet in costume should NEVER be left alone and unsupervised.
- Tight elastics on the costumes can get lost in the pet’s hair, potentially causing owners to overlook them, leading to swelling and possibly pain or infection.
- Some pets, if left alone in costume, may chew it up and eat it, which may cause an internal obstruction.
- If the costumed pet escapes or is frightened away, the costume could entangle the pet on trees, fences, etc.
- Try the costume on your pet before the big event to make sure he or she is comfortable in it (you can use treats as a reward for wearing it)
- If your pet looks uncomfortable i.e. just sits/lies in one place or is trying to remove the costume themselves, then please take it off them.
If your pet enjoys being dressed up that’s brilliant, but if he or she looks uncomfortable or just sits / lies in one place you should remove the costume immediately.
What you can do for particularly worried pets
You can try pheromone products such as Adaptil collars and tablets for dogs or a Feliway diffuser in the home for cats. We also have some great over the counter medications such as Zylkene and Scullcap & Valerian available at the practice. Contact the practice on 0118 9574488 and one of our veterinary nurses will be happy to chat to you about using these products to help your pet cope. You can view our Fireworks Article for more information on these products.