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October 28, 2011 > Veterinary & Pet News: Halloween safety for our pets

Veterinary & Pet News: Halloween safety for our pets

Halloween is a lot of fun. Early in the week, my kids participated in the carving of the jack-o'-lantern. We purchased costumes for our kids and our dog.

Halloween may be one of the few times adults can dress up as ghosts and monsters and get away with it. Many pet owners are involving their pets in the Halloween festivities. Seeing a pet wearing a Halloween costume is enough to bring a smile to anyone's face; they look so cute and adorable.

Believe it or not, your pet can get the heebie-jeebies on the most ghoulish night of the year too. Lots of people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be "spooked" by all of the noise and costumes. Halloween is a holiday with many dangers for our dogs and cats... the two biggest concerns are injuries and poisonings.

Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be much fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind. Your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes. Your pet's costume should be inedible. If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his "birthday suit".

Halloween is the second most common holiday for pets to get lost. Costumes on people can be scary to pets. Masked intruders lurk on the doorstep, making demands and threatening mayhem. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person.

The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog. It's best to keep your dog away from the front door, to limit its excitability, aggression and chances of running away. Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful, run away and become injured in a variety of ways.

Consider allowing your dog to spend Halloween in his own special place inside with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins. Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint.

Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe as well. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction. Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire.

Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy. Children tend to want to share their treats with their pets, and dogs are all too happy to oblige. Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting. Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet's digestive tract, causing painful obstructions. Candy that is sweetened with Xylitol(r) can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well.

Although the threat is probably minimal, many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year. It might be wise to keep all cats indoors.

The holidays are meant to be a fun and joyous time for your family. By considering your pet's safety and taking proper precautions before the festivities begin, you can head off potential disasters, reducing the likelihood of spending your holiday making an emergency vet visit.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Dr Raj Salwan is a second generation Veterinarian and has been around Veterinary Medicine for over 23 years. His interests include Internal Medicine, Surgery, Emergency/Acute Care, and general small animal practice. He currently works at American Animal Care in Fremont and can be reached via email at or

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