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5 Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe over Halloween

The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping, meaning Halloween is around the corner. Halloween is celebrated and enjoyed across the country by many children and adults alike. From creepy costumes to tasty treats, there’s much to enjoy. However, this time of year can be hazardous to our pets, so here are some top tips to keep them safe and happy this Halloween.

1.     Avoid the chocolate and sweets

The first thing to protect your pets from this time of year is chocolate and sweets. Most people already know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Although generally the darker the chocolate the worse it is for your pet, it can vary between individuals so all chocolate is best avoided. If your pet does accidentally snack on some chocolate then get them to the vets quick! It is best to get them treated before any symptoms start. It will be useful for the vet if you are able to tell them how much and what type of chocolate your pet ate. The vet will be able to make them vomit and give them supportive care, such as fluids, that will aid their recovery. What many people don’t know is that grapes and raisins are also poisonous for pets. Similarly to chocolate, if you suspect your pet has eaten either of these then a vet visit is required ASAP.

Sweets may seem harmless but some contain a sweetening substance called Xylitol which can be lethal for dogs and potentially harmful to cats. Even a small amount of Xylitol can lead to low blood sugar levels, seizures, and liver damage. Emergency vet care is needed if you suspect your pet has eaten any sweets containing Xylitol. Your vet will be able to provide supportive care such as blood sugar supplementation and fluid therapy.

Even if you avoid toxic treats such as chocolate and sweets, pets should continue on their normal diet over Halloween and not be given human foods. Human foods or additional treats in your pet’s diet can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies or even weight gain… and even more commonly, terrible stomach upsets!

2.     Take care with decorations

Halloween decorations can be great fun and some people like to go “all out” at this time of year. However, plastic decorations can be a choking hazard or even cause an obstruction in your pet’s guts. These may lead to emergency treatment or even surgery, resulting in some big vet bills. Glow sticks also contain a substance that can be irritant and toxic if leaked, so should be kept far away from pets. Any decorations should be kept out of reach of pets or only left out under supervision. Even “natural” decorations such as pumpkins or corn cobs can be a threat. If left for too long these may start to grow mould that, if ingested, could cause serious illness and strange behaviours in your pet, and if large lumps are swallowed whole, again they can block the gut.

Electrical decorations should also be used with caution. Exposed wires may be a tempting chew opportunity for dogs and even rabbits. Chewing electrical wires could result in electric shocks, or even fatal electrocution. If you suspect your pet has been electrocuted then it is essential to avoid touching them and call us ASAP for further advice.

Candles are also increasingly popular as Halloween decorations. Humans understand that touching candles can be harmful, but pets (like children!) will not understand. Candles should be kept out of reach from pets to avoid them being harmed.

3.     Costumes need to be used carefully

Costumes for pets are increasing in popularity and can be found in many high street shops as well as online. However, when choosing a costume it is important to choose one that will be safe for your pet. Anything held on with elastic or tight in any place on your pet should be avoided. These can cause discomfort and may restrict blood flow. Unlike a child or person, your pet is unable to tell you when a costume is too tight, so it is up to you.

You should also avoid any costumes that feature masks that may cover your pet’s face, or anything that may restrict their walking, eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. If your pet becomes stressed when wearing a costume then it may be best give the costume a miss and let them be themselves this Halloween.

Even pets that seem happy and comfortable in a costume should never be left unsupervised in a costume and should not wear a costume for too long. It is also a good idea to be mindful of the temperature. If your house is very warm from central heating, or if your pet is running around a lot, then some costumes may cause them to overheat and so should be removed or avoided in these situations.

4.     Care with trick or treaters

Knocks on the door from children demanding sweets and treats are fairly common practice at Halloween, however, not everyone considers the impact it may have on their pets. Some pets may become very stressed by the constant knocking and door opening. For these pets it may be a good idea to keep them away from the front door and in a much quieter part of the house with familiar sounds and smells. Turning up the telly or radio can be a good distraction. If your pet is going to be very distressed by the door going off multiple times then it may be worth popping a note on the door to ask trick or treaters to miss out your house or leaving out some sweets so they don’t have to knock.

It is also worth bearing in mind that not all children will love your pets as much as you do. Some children can be very fearful of dogs so even the friendliest and most well-meaning pet greeting them at the door may terrify them. For this reason, it is a good idea to try and keep pets back when answering the door, especially if you don’t know the trick or treaters.

Frightened pets can do silly things and may try to escape or run away to hide. Keeping them behind closed doors while opening the front door and ensuring the back garden is well secured when you let them out can be a very sensible plan. However, accidents happen and, if your pet does happen to get out, having a name tag and microchip will ensure they safely find their way back to you as soon as possible.

Cat owners may want to keep an eye on the whereabouts of their outdoor cats at this time of year. Although most people are harmless at Halloween, there have been cases of cats, especially black ones, being picked on and bullied by children or adults around Halloween. Although this is completely unacceptable and cruel behaviour, keeping your cat indoors or close to home can help keep them a bit safer.

5.     Be prepared for fireworks

The coming and going of Halloween means Bonfire Night and firework season is just around the corner. Preparation is key if you have pets that are afraid of fireworks so it’s best to start thinking about it early. Start by finding out the times and dates of any local shows so you know when to expect them, but also remember that people can buy and set off their own fireworks without any warning. If you are able to, going for walks in the morning or before sunset can reduce the chances of being caught out and about when displays start. If you do have to go out in the dark at night, then keeping your pet on a lead is a good idea. Make sure you have a room in your house with no hazards where you can stay with your pet during nearby fireworks. A room with lots of familiar smells, curtains/blinds and a source of familiar noise such as tv is ideal. Also ensure your garden is secure, or consider letting them out to do their business on a lead so they can’t be spooked and run away. While it is sensible to allow your pet to hide and be close by to comfort them, you should avoid making any over the top fuss of them as this can encourage fearful behaviours.

Hopefully, now you will feel better equipped to keep yourself and your pets safe this Halloween. Remember that our vets are at the end of the phone if you need any additional advice or have any questions about pet safety. Wishing you and your pets a spooky but safe Halloween.