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  • Thomas F. Dock, BSc, CVJ

Keep Your Pet's Halloween From Becoming Beastly!


I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE this time of year, especially as we get closer and closer to Halloween. Just recently, I visited our local Spirit Halloween store and, quite honestly, I found it hard to leave!! Experts predict that we will spend about $8 billion in total on Halloween this year, including $350 million for costumes for our pets!! 16% of pet owners will enlist Fido and Fluffy in their Halloween celebrations, which really should come as no surprise as we include our pets in almost everything we do now!


​While many costumes might look cute (imagine your ShihTzu as an Ewok), not all pets appreciate the outfits, especially if the costume is constricting or needs something around their head. Speaking from experience, my Mastiffs are not too keen on the reindeer antlers I try each Christmas, but they do well with other apparel. If you are using paints to help create a tiger or zebra or some other wild critter, be sure to use the non-toxic face paints and remove everything just as soon as the festivities are over! And, if your pet doesn’t like the costume, don't stress, just let him/her enjoy Halloween frolicking in their “birthday suit.”


Unfortunately, many pets get confused by the costumes and masks of their “people”. Don’t be surprised if your pet barks or even growls at you when you get dressed to head out. Add in a whole horde of unknown ghouls and goblins making a racket at your front door and you can easily see how mild mannered pups can turn into Cujo! Remember, your dog is using more senses than you are and if what he sees (you in the gorilla mask) doesn't correspond to what he smells (you), it could cause some confusion and possibly fear.​​


Consider keeping your dog in an interior room, away from the front door to avoid any ghastly surprises. Our sneaky feline friends might also try to escape the haunted sights and sounds, so keep them confined during Trick or Treat time as well. Overly excited pups might cause a cauldron of trouble by either knocking down the tiny monsters at your door or with Halloween decorations. Exuberant tail wagging could knock over pumpkins with candles, leading to singed hair at best or a house fire at worst. Other decorations, like corn cobs, could be dangerous if swallowed.


But, by far, the biggest danger to our pets during this holiday comes from the goodie bags filled with scrumptious treats from around the neighborhood. When your witches, superheroes, and princesses return home with the haul, make sure that the candy is kept out of the pet’s reach. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is toxic to pets. While a few M&Ms aren’t likely to cause a problem for your Labrador, it doesn’t take many Milky Way bars or Kit Kats to cause on issue for smaller pets. Chocolate toxicity signs commonly include vomiting and diarrhea, but could progress to restlessness, muscle tremors, a racing heart rate and possibly seizures. In severe cases, pets who don’t receive treatment could die. Make sure you have your veterinarian's number or the local animal emergency hospital's number handy! Don't be afraid to call, they WILL want to hear from you if you have concerns!


Beyond the horrors of eating chocolate, your pet could also experience problems with artificially sweetened candies if they contain Xylitol. Foil wrappers and the sticks from lollipops are also potentially dangerous if swallowed. Finally, as many pet owners can attest, some dogs will continue to gorge on the candy beyond all expectations. Per Pet Poison Helpline, high levels of high-fat, sugary candies in the body can predispose a pet to life-threatening pancreatitis.


Keep these items top of mind during your Halloween celebration and you can avoid going batty and a trip to the animal ER! Now, let's see some more pictures of your pets dressed up in the Halloween finery!

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