Within a few days, ghosts and goblins will be roaming the neighborhood begging for treats. Halloween is a fun holiday for children, but there are many hazards for your pet.

For kids and adults alike, Halloween is a great time for dressing up and letting our fantasies reign.  From the chaos of trick or treat nights to the eerie decorations and creepy traditions, Halloween has grown into a major holiday.  Unfortunately, our pets may find the excitement a bit too spooky!

The most obvious danger for pets this holiday is the amount of candy and treats in the house. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) reports that insurance claims for substance toxicity more than double following Halloween, with a majority of the cases caused by pets eating candy and wrappers. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. In small doses, it causes vomiting and diarrhea. In larger amounts, chocolate can cause seizures, and an overdose can be fatal.

Fortunately, most Halloween candy is milk chocolate, which is less dangerous. However, if you are baking treats, be aware that semi-sweet chocolate and baking chocolate are toxic in much smaller doses due to the greater amount of methylxanthines in these forms of chocolate.

Another sweet holiday hazard is xylitol, which is found in sugar free gums and candies. While humans can consume xylitol with no problem, in dogs it produces low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia. Signs are vomiting, weakness, trouble walking and sometimes seizures. In some dogs it can lead to fatal liver failure. Please contact your veterinarian if your pet gets into the Halloween treats.

In the excitement of trick-or treating, it is important to keep your pet safely away from the front door. First, it will keep your pet from darting outside when the door is open. Second, it will reduce the chance of your pet becoming agitated by the noise and costumes that accompany Halloween. Even if your pet is normally very social, he may become protective of his territory when faced with costumed strangers on the porch. Dogs may react aggressively and cats may become frightened and run away. Keep all of your four-legged family members indoors and safe during the trick-or-treating hours.

Halloween decorations can be a hazard to your pet. Fake cobwebs or anything on a string can be very attractive to cats. If a cat chews or swallows some of these decorations, it can cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. This often requires surgery to remove the foreign material.

Dressing your pet up can be a fun idea, but keep your pet’s comfort in mind. Costumes should not restrict your pet’s vision, breathing or movement. They should never be secured with rubber bands or any item that might restrict breathing or potentially tighten and cut off circulation. Pets should only be in costume when they are with their owners. Pets will chew at uncomfortable costumes and can eat inedible items in an attempt to remove them. If your pet appears distressed by a costume, it’s probably best to just let him appear in his birthday suit.

If you have a question about your pet, contact your family veterinarian for advice.  Have a Happy and Safe Halloween from all of us at the Gardner Animal Care Center.