Halloween brings the promise of lots of holiday fun for kids, but it does pose some serious risk for pets. So before you stock up on sweets for trick-or-treaters, there are a few simple things you can do to protect your favorite four-legged friend from what The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) points out are five major Halloween pet threats.
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1. Take costume precautions
Pet Halloween costumes are becoming more common, but before you play holiday dress-up with your pet, make sure the costume doesn't impair the animal's movement, hearing, sight, or ability to breathe, bark, eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. Choking hazards are also common, so be sure to ID any potential problems with a pet costume before dressing your pet up. Better yet? Substitute elaborate (and probably uncomfortable) dog or cat costumes for a simple, festive bandanna.
In addition to costume safety, Halloween is a holiday filled with new social encounters for your dog or cat, so remember these 3 Golden Rules of Petiquette.
2. Avoid deadly sweets
You've probably heard that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is toxic to dogs. In fact, ASPCA's Animal Control Center sees a 39 percent increase in calls involving chocolate exposures during Halloween time compared to the rest of the year. But a lesser-known--and potentially fatal--toxin is a candy, gum, and baked goods sweetener called xylitol. Xylitol doesn't hurt humans, but even tiny amounts can send your dog into seizures or cause depression or a loss of coordination. Signs of a chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, heart rhythm abnormalities, and even seizures. The takeaway? Keep the candy dish, bulging trick-or-treat bags, and purses containing gum way out of paws' reach.
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3. Create a holiday safe house
Trick-or-treating may be a blast for kids, but it can be a really scary night for pets. The presence of strangers, scary outfits, and the constantly ringing doorbell and knocking on the door can make pets very nervous and more prone to running away. Keep your pet in a separate room on trick-or-treat night to reduce his or her stress. "Be sure that your pet has ID tags, should he or she accidentally get loose," adds Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center. "Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors constantly arriving at the door, and pets can easily slip out unnoticed."
4. Be careful with trash
Candy and gum wrappers aren't worth much to people, but cats enjoy their crinkly characteristics. Watch out for those wrappers, though. Felines may love to play with them, but ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can cause intestinal blockage and vomiting. Keep your trash and empty wrappers out of reach, somewhere cats can't find them.
Avoid hazardous decorations. Nothing says "Happy Halloween" like an illuminated jack-o'-lantern. But since pets can easily knock over candles, opt for LED candles for safer ambience. If your pet's a notorious chewer, be sure to keep wires and cords from decorations out of reach.
If your dog or cat accidentally eats any potentially harmful products and you need emergency advice, please consult your veterinarian or call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (a consultation fee applies).
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