As clients enjoy Halloween fun, ensure they are educated on keeping their beloved pets safe and comfortable
Our furry counterparts can enjoy the whimsy of Halloween just like us. Dachshunds can be dressed as dashing waiters, boxers as bumblebees, or Maltese dogs can sport mermaid tales. As pets are donned in this cute attire, veterinary professionals must ensure pet owners are informed on doing so in a safe, comfortable manner for their best friend.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, Halloween is the center’s busiest time of year with a 12% increase in calls.1 It comes as no surprise that chocolate is top on the list to avoid as it is the most toxic to pets, and the darker and more bitter it is, generally the more dangerous it is. Overindulging in other sugary candy can pose an issue in pets and potentially lead to pancreatitis, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Also, pet owners should bear in mind if distributing or receiving healthy alternatives to candy, such as raisins and grapes, that these are incredibly toxic to pets and can cause kidney failure in dogs, and potentially, cats.1
Manager, veterinary medicine, and senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, shared in a dvm360® interview, “The other thing that we see [that causes toxic poisoning to pets] is macadamia nuts. And we can also see any kind of product that contains xylitol.” Xylitol is often found as an alternative to sugar, so educate clients on this ingredient that can be found in sugar-free candy and other common food products. “And this isn't necessarily a food but a beverage, alcohol, that is out at festive parties [is dangerous to pets]. It's not uncommon for the family pet to get into something when a guest has left their drink on the coffee table or somewhere where the animal can get to it.”
Veterinarians at Trusted Housesitters, a travel solution for pet people, shared advice in a release2 about Halloween safety for pets. According to the release, the Google search “Can cats eat pumpkin?” peaks between October 24th and October 30th each year. To answer this, the veterinarians described that cats and dogs can both have pumpkin, but ensure clients don't confuse canned pumpkin with pumpkin pie mix that may hurt a pet’s stomach. Plus, raw pumpkin is difficult for pets to digest. Cats can eat pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds, though it's recommended to grind up the seeds to avoid digestive upset and choking.2
In a respective dvm360 interview at an event hosted by Chewy in New York, New York, Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice), owner and medical director of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, shared to advise pet owners that they can familiarize their animals with costumes by trying them on them ahead of the holiday. “Don’t make the first time you're trying [the costume on] actual Halloween day,” she said. “You want [pet owners] to pair the wearing of the costume with something motivational like a treat. Then [the pet] will look forward to wearing that costume and it won’t be a big surprise on Halloween.”
Schmid said to be mindful of costumes with snaps, buttons, or zippers that pets can chew off and swallow, which can cause a potential foreign body obstruction. Particularly, small pieces with metals (eg, zinc or lead) can result in serious poisoning, according to the Pet Poison Helpline’s website.1 The helpline added to ensure that pets' costumes don’t impair their vision, movement, or air intake, and to avoid dying or applying coloring to a pet’s fur. Even if the dye is labeled non-toxic to humans, it can be dangerous to pets.
With all the pandemonium involved in the holiday, Halloween, after the Fourth of July, is the second most common holiday for pets to go missing.3,4 Schmid stated, “Make sure that if [pet parents] are going to be frequently opening that door for trick or treaters, consider encouraging your clients to have the pet in a different room further away.” And as always, educate them on the importance of microchipping and identification tags as an extra protective measure, Schmid noted.
Hess warned that if dogs are tagging along with their families during festivities on Halloween, it can be a scary environment for them. Other pets and their owners may be dressed up as well and excited. Hess recommended being especially mindful of where pet owners’ dogs are relative to other dogs. “You want to make sure you read your dog's body language carefully on a night where there's a lot of new stimulation out there. If you're careful and you're cautious, you can have a great time,” she said.