Halloween can be terrifying for cats and dogs

Commotion, candy, and masked strangers may upset your pets

Published: October 31, 2014 02:30 PM

As cute as it may seem to dress your feline friend or canine companion in a Halloween costume, a frightened dog in a cape is nobody's idea of fun (especially not the dog's). Of course, you have to keep kids safe on Halloween, but it's equally important to recognize the dangers that abound for pets around this time of year. For starters, keep the candy bag away from Fido and Fluffy.

Candy can be toxic to pets. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate—and even seizures. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination, and seizures.

A parade of trick-or-treaters knocking on the door can also be disconcerting for a pet. Here are some guidelines from the Humane Society of the U.S.  and the ASPCA  for keeping pets and the people around them safe at Halloween.

  • Keep your pet in a quiet place, away from trick-or-treaters and other Halloween activities.  Dogs and cats can become frightened or agitated by the unaccustomed sights and sounds of costumed visitors.
  • Cats—black ones in particular—often fall victim to pranksters. Keep them safely indoors.
  • Place live flame decorations like candles and jack-o'-lanterns out of your pet's reach. Curious cats or rambunctious dogs can easily knock over a candle with a paw or a wagging tail.
  • Don't leave wrappers around. Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.
  • Don't let the family dog accompany the kids on their trick-or-treat outing. Children may have a difficult time handling a pet during the festivities and your pooch could get loose, especially if she is spooked by neighborhood goblins.
  • Keep decorations that pets could chew on—like streamers and fake spider webs—and wires and cords from electric decorations out of reach. If pets chomp on Halloween decorations they could choke or become ill and, if they chew on electrical cords, they risk a potentially deadly electric shock.
  • IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.
  • If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435, the ASPCA's poison control hotline. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

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