The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and there is the smell of cinnamon and apples everywhere! That means it is almost time for Halloween. While carving pumpkins and indulging in sugary snacks, it is important to also consider our pets and the common hazards that Halloween brings about.
The first category of hazards is candy. Any candy can cause acute gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. Most commonly we will see vomiting, diarrhea, and pets will not want to eat. The severity can vary, so it is important to have your pet evaluated at the first sign of illness. In addition to the candy itself, the wrapper can serve as a foreign body resulting in a bowel obstruction and subsequent profuse vomiting. Foreign bodies often require surgery that allows exploration of the abdomen to find the foreign material, remove the material, and remove any part of the intestine that does not look healthy.
There are 3 specific categories of candies that are more of a cause for concern if ingested by a pet. The first is chocolate. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are more poisonous than milk chocolate or white chocolate. The risk of toxicity is dependent on the size of the pet and the amount of chocolate ingested. Signs of chocolate intoxication range from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures, coma and death. The second is candies containing xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar free gums, candies, and certain nut butters. Xylitol is extremely toxic and even small amounts can cause a lot of damage. Xylitol acts in two ways. Initially it will cause a severe drop in blood sugar. This will make animals appear weak, uncoordinated, and can even lead to seizures. After this period, dogs can go into irreversible liver failure. The third is raisins. Raisins are an interesting toxin, because we cannot seem to find out what the toxic principle is or what the toxic amount is. Ultimately, the toxic amount is different for each pet, so it is best to avoid grapes and raisins all together. Raisin and grape ingestion can lead to acute and irreversible kidney failure. If your pet ingests any type of candy, make note of approximately how much was ingested and what type of candy was ingested. It is important to take action quickly, as we can induce vomiting in some animals to prevent serious poisoning.
Pumpkins and corn cobs are used for decorations but can look like a tasty treat for your pet. While pumpkins and corn are not toxic to pets, they can serve as a foreign body risk and result in intestinal obstruction. Again, foreign bodies often require surgical intervention, so it is best to just keep these decorations out of the reach of curious pets.
Candles can also pose a threat to an inquisitive pet. If a dog or cat absentmindedly knocks over a pumpkin with a real candle inside, that candle can easily start a fire in the surrounding area. In addition, dogs and cats are often intrigued by the flame and will try to play with it. This can lead to burns with skin trauma and severe pain. It is best to keep any and all open flames away from pets to prevent a risk of house fire and a risk of skin damage to the pet.
Halloween is always a fun time for people to try out fun new costumes, but our pets can also look extra cute all dressed up too. It is important to ensure that your pet can easily and freely move around its environment while wearing the costume. In addition, the costume should not obstruct the nose, eyes, or ears to allow for normal breathing, hearing, and sight. Pets will sometimes not enjoy their costumes as much as we do. Be sure your pet is not showing signs of anxiety (lip licking, yawning, attempted escape, aggression, barking, etc.) when putting on or while wearing the costume. In addition, make sure that your pet’s costume cannot be ingested as the costume components can easily become a foreign body risk. If you are planning on dyeing your pets hair, ensure that the dye is made for animals and is non toxic if ingested.
It is very important that when October 31st arrives, you are prepared with a plan for your pets to both prevent escape and to prevent fear based aggression towards strangers. The constant door bell ringing, opening of the doors, and strangers dressed in costume can be very stressful for both dogs and cats. If your dog has a noise phobia or can become fear aggressive with strangers, consider leaving a bowl of candy outside to prevent the door bell from ringing. The risk of being hit by a car is so much greater on Halloween secondary to the increased traffic and increased anxiety for pets . Because of this, confining pets to a place within the home where they cannot easily escape out the door when it is opened is extremely important.
While Halloween can be fun for humans, it can be very dangerous for our pets. Formulating a plan to prevent harm to our furry friends can sometimes be difficult. Contact the doctors and staff at Mobile Veterinary Clinic for tips and tricks to avoid any mishaps this Halloween.
Oct 19 2015