While 2020 has been a big mess, one of my achievements is that I’ve been successful in slowing down my refined sugar intake. I finally followed the advice I give to pet owners and just don’t buy anything I shouldn’t be eating. This is easier since I cut out a drastic amount of grocery trips. However, let me be very clear that I always eat candy that is dropped off at the clinic or gifted to me. That brings me to my next topic — Halloween. There are a lot of things that are very weird this year. I don’t think a lot of people have even decided if they are going door to door, taking candy, going to a drive-by location, or just forgetting it. I for one am planning on taking pictures and pretending that I did something fun with my crew, banking on the fact that no one will remember. I’m going to talk about a lot of our “usual” issues, but keep in mind as things change some may be obsolete or some may be scarier for pets.
The number one best thing about Halloween is seeing animals in costumes. Costumes are exponentially cuter on pets. Many pets don’t feel this is the best thing about Halloween, but luckily they can’t tell us how they really feel about it. Of course, pets should not be left unattended in their costumes or they may find a way to tell us exactly how they feel. This can end in your veterinarian retrieving pieces of the costume from their stomach and intestines with surgery. Keep an eye on your animals while they are in costume, both so they don’t become tangled or decide to snack it off of themselves.
Avoiding delicious candy is going to be the hardest part of the holiday for me, which makes me much like most dogs. This is the number one most dangerous thing about Halloween for our pets. To them, it seems as if you are placing bowls of candy on the counter/table/porch just for them. If you have one of those animals that seems to magically appear in out of reach places when there is food, commit to hiding the candy in cupboards and buying non-chocolate (and non-raisin) varieties. While it is never good for pets to ingest a 5-pound bag of candy, buying candy without chocolate at least decreases the possibility that it will be fatal. If you have dogs, chocolate covered raisins should never be anywhere near them. This is a double dose of toxic compounds that people often gravitate towards as “healthy” alternatives.
It is also important to speak with children and make sure they understand the consequences of leaving candy out. It can be difficult to understand that something so good and they can eat without trouble can be deadly to a pet. Most children (especially if there are more than one) are happy to find a hiding spot for their loot. If they are allowed to keep the candy in their rooms, help search for a closeted area or drawer. If you keep the candy to ration out, make sure that they understand that none of it may ever be accessible to the pets. Do not underestimate our cats; while not as silly as dogs they have been known to partake in fun-sized chocolates as well.
If your animals do get into the candy, especially chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately. When we are able to intervene quickly before the chocolate starts to become absorbed, pets have a better chance of survival. Each pet reacts differently to chocolate, but it can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and kidney failure. The higher the percentage of cocoa the more deadly, but pets can have serious effects from just a small amount.
Another important consideration for Halloween is the number of visitors to your house. Some dogs are delighted by all the new guests, but many become anxious at the never-ending parade of terrifying creatures ringing the doorbell. The costumes can be frightening for pets, and it is hard for them to understand why there are swords being brandished at them. This may be a big variable this year that we don’t have to worry about, but if you are in a high traffic area and masked enough to feel safe this might include your house.
Indoor cats should be kept closed in a back room because the constant opening of the door can provide a dangerous situation. It is difficult to pay attention to the animals while looking at costumes and handing out candy. If your dog is sensitive to commotion or unnerved by the ghouls visiting, it is best to keep them in another part of the house as well. If the doorbell is a trigger, simply place a sign outside asking visitors to knock instead. Similar to treat training dogs, it seems that people follow directions very well when they have a candy reward waiting.
Unfortunately, if you have black cats it is still a good idea to keep them indoors if possible around Halloween. As much as I don’t like to believe it, there are still a handful of unreliable people here and there.
Luckily it is easy to keep pets safe while still enjoying the candy and humiliation of pet costumes. Simply be mindful of how this holiday appears from the eyes of your pet, and always watch the candy.