Halloween activities pose many tricky threats to pets


The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

In America we love our holidays. Fall and winter bring a flurry of festivities and activities with friends and family. Little changes that we take for granted, things that we associate with holidays can be confusing to our pets. Parties and community events interrupt normal routines. Friends and family come to visit. Foods and decorations that aren't usually there tempt them and sometimes, we forget how things must look and feel to our pets. Pets can't tell us what's bothering them so we need to pay attention to signals.

Thankfully, most communities now have Halloween events at community centers or schools. It's much safer than letting children and pets wander neighborhoods in the dark. If you're off to a Halloween event with your pet in tow, check in advance to make sure the environment is appropriate.

Something fun-scary to an adult or older child can be terrifying to young children and pets. If your pet is well socialized and confident, it can have a wonderful time but Halloween parties are not the place for skittish or untrained dogs.

For the few remaining areas where trick-or-treaters roam neighborhoods, keep your pets safely confined in a part of the house where they feel secure and they're out of the way. People at the door through the evening can make a dog or cat feel nervous and it's easy for an upset dog or cat to bolt through an open door or gate, or become aggressive at the sight of ghosts and ghouls in their territory.

If you exercise your dogs thoroughly and settle them in to their room about half an hour before trick-or-treaters start appearing, they'll be less agitated by what they might well perceive as an invasion of intruders.

Don't leave your pets unattended outdoors on Halloween. There are malicious people in the world and in every community; Halloween tends to bring them out so keep children and pets safe and supervised. Around Halloween, even outdoor cats should be kept inside or, if they're barn cats, safely closed in their barn, particularly black cats who are sadly often victims of foul play.

If you're walking around with your dog at night, a reflective collar and leash set will help you both be visible to drivers. I love pet blinkers that latch on to collars. They can be turned on or off with a simple twist or press and they make your dog easy to spot in the dark. They're great for camping trips and any time you're out with your dog at night. Be conscious of your visibility at night, too. Don't assume cars can see you, particularly when you're wearing dark clothes.

Many pets love to dress up but some dogs and most cats are miserable in costumes, particularly ones that restrict movement and have hoods or masks. Lots of dogs are used to sweaters and coats but costumes are not always designed with the same consideration for comfort and safety as regular doggie attire. Try clothing on in advance, in your home before your pets have to endure an evening of misery in their cuteness. Even dogs that are laid back can become skittish and easily frightened in a cumbersome costume.

Don't let your pet consume alcohol either accidentally or deliberately. It's not healthy for pets to be intoxicated and it can be lethal. Halloween candy needs to be kept where pets can't get at it. Chocolate is particularly dangerous and artificial sugars like xylitol, often used in chewing gum and sugar free candies, are potentially deadly.

If your pet consumes either chocolate or a product with xylitol, don't "wait and see." Get to your veterinarian right away. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity or lethargy and drooling, and can lead to cardiac failure, seizures and death. Baking chocolate is the worst because it contains the highest amount of theobromine. Fatal side effects can come on suddenly and it's better to pay for a vet visit only to find out your dog is OK than have to try and pull him or her through theobromine or xylitol poisoning that's gone too far.

Although not as serious a risk, even ordinary sugar can be poison to pets in large quantities so keep those bags of Halloween candy well out of reach and watch where children haul their loot around. Candy wrappers and lollipop sticks need to be picked up so they're not ingested.

Remember too that we often spend less time with our pets around holiday season. If they are not part of your festivities or the time you share with family and friends, give your pets some special time and attention. Whenever possible keep them on their regular eating and exercise routines.

Paws Around Town was written this week by Nadia Caillou, an animal care specialist and co-owner of a pet store in Sedona. She is the founder of Golden Bone Rescue and Rehab and has over 30 years experience helping distressed animals and helping pet owners, shelters and pounds overcome problem behavior in animals.

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