An article I had written which is very topical this Halloween holiday season. Feel free to share this information with family and friends.
Halloween Hazards for Your Pets
Peter S. Sakas DVM
Hospital and Bird Medical
7278 N. Milwaukee
Ave. Niles, IL 60714
Ph. 847-647-9325 FAX 847-647-8498
Halloween is a holiday that is great fun. Through the years
more and more people have really become involved with extensive decorations in
and around the house. In addition, there is the candy and trick or treating.
Candy is around the house in bowls for the trick or treaters as well as the
candy collected by your own kids as they canvas the neighborhood with their own
trick or treating. If you have Halloween parties for kids or adults there will
be food and drink around as well. With all this food, decorations and
activities it can be a time of great danger for your pet. They will be
attracted by the tempting smells and may eat what they should not. They may be
intrigued by the shimmering, attractive decorations and begin to chew on
objects that could cause severe medical problems. In addition, it can also be a
stressful time for your pets due to the commotion involved with the holiday. During
the holiday you must take steps to be certain that your pets will be safe from
Trick or Treaters
It is always fun when trick or treaters come to the door; you
admire them in their costumes, and hand out candy. However, your pets do not
understand the significance of the holiday and recognize these people dressed
in strange costumes as intruders so they want to protect their home against
them. The constant ringing of the doorbell and groups of trick or treaters at
the door can be quite stressful for your pets. Strangers in strange costumes
can lead to a normal friendly pet becoming fearful or overly aggressive.
Crating a pet can sometimes lead to them developing diarrhea or injuring
themselves when they are confined in this fashion. It may not be a bad idea to
keep your pets in a separate, quiet room, away from the door when trick or
It is important for all family members to recognize that
these treats are for people only and are not to be shared with pets. Candy
wrappers and lollipop sticks can be hazardous if swallowed. Lollipop sticks and
other plastic parts are especially dangerous if ingested by a pet as they can cause
intestinal blockage and possibly rupture the intestines, which is
Almost everyone knows that chocolate is toxic for pets. Theobromine,
a chemical found in chocolate is the cause of the poisoning, which can be
deadly in dogs, especially, and other pets. They actually have an allergic
reaction to the theobromine which can be quite severe. Some dogs may not have
as severe of a response but it is not worth taking a chance with your pets.
Chocolate should be avoided, do not think a little bit is not going to hurt! If
your pet is sensitive to the theobromine it does not take much to cause a toxic
Depending on the amount ingested, chocolate (bakers, semi
sweet, milk and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. Theobromine
levels are especially high in dark chocolates. In general, the less sweet the
chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate
contains almost seven times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Vomiting,
diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart
rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking
chocolate by a 10-pound dog. Halloween treats with chocolate are not
appropriate for pets.
Other chemicals found in certain candies can also be toxic
to your pets. Xylitol, a sweetener found in some candies, mints, baked goods,
chocolate, and gum can be toxic to pets if taken in large amounts. Ingestion of
significant quantities can produce a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar,
resulting in depression, incoordination and seizures. Foods containing Xylitol
should be kept well out of reach of your pets. Do not take any chances with you
pets. As stated before, do not think that a little bit is not going to hurt.
You should have plenty of treats around the house that are appropriate for your
pets and use them instead of candies.
Avoid the temptation to feed your pets leftovers from your
holiday meals. Your pet should be kept on its normal diet. Any change of diet,
even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea.
This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive
systems and nutritional requirements. Many of these foods are rich; especially those
that are high in fat, and can often cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances
in pets which could prove fatal. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) is
a very common disease of dogs and is frequently caused by the eating of table
scraps. The pancreas plays a role in digestion of food but when an animal eats
a rich or fatty meal, the pancreas is 'overstimulated' and the organ
oversecretes enzymes leading to inflammation of the pancreas and surrounding
tissues. Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting and abdominal pain, sometimes
quite severe. The condition is very uncomfortable for the pet and sometimes can
be fatal. If you notice these type of symptoms seek veterinary care.
Although some people may think it is humorous, never offer
or allow your pets access to alcoholic beverages. Due to Halloween parties
there may be alcoholic drinks carelessly left in areas where pets may be able
to reach them. Place these unattended drinks in a safe location where pets
cannot reach them. If enough alcohol is ingested, the animal could become very
ill and weak. In severe cases they may go into a coma, possibly resulting in
death due to respiratory failure.
Animals are attracted to unusual or shiny objects which
may be found around the house during Halloween used for decorations or
wrapping. Dogs and cats cannot see in color so it is the shiny, shimmering or
unusual appearance that attracts them. Birds can see in color, so color may
definitely be a source of attraction to them. Keep aluminum foil and cellophane
candy wrappers away from pets. Pets may swallow such material, leading to
gastrointestinal irritation, causing vomiting or may even pass into the
intestinal tract producing an intestinal blockage. Cats are quite often
attracted to ribbons, bows, strings and other decorations which they may chew,
swallow and develop intestinal blockage. In addition, twinkling lights or other
interesting electrical decorations may prove attractive to your pets. They may
chew on the cords which may lead to severe electrical shocks.
Keep the decorations out of the reach of your pets to
avoid potential danger. If you notice that your pet is very interested in the
decorations and may be chewing on them, be certain to relocate the objects in a
safe place where you pet cannot get to them.
Exercise caution with lit candles around pets, which could
easily become a fire hazard if knocked over by a wagging tail, a curious or
frightened cat. This includes the candle placed inside the carved pumpkin, as
the pumpkin could be toppled and the candle inside become a fire risk.
During Halloween decorative plants, such as pumpkins or
decorative foods, such as corn and gourds are placed around the home to provide
a festive holiday setting. These plants and foods though considered to be
relatively non-toxic, can potentially cause gastrointestinal upset and may even
result in intestinal blockage if large pieces are ingested.
Liquid potpourri, commonly used to add pleasant scent to
the home during certain holidays, can be hazardous to pets. Potentially severe
damage to the mouth, skin and eyes could result from exposure to both heated
and cool liquid products. Birds are especially sensitive to fumes or airborne
toxins and caution must be exercised whenever you are using materials that
produce fumes or odors. Use them in areas with good ventilation and keep your
birds away from them. If you notice your bird is in respiratory distress, move
the bird into an area away from the fumes, get good clean air flow in the area
and seek veterinary assistance. Airborne toxins can be fatal to birds.
If you suspect your pet may have become exposed to a
potentially toxic product or substance, contact your local veterinarian, a
veterinary emergency clinic (if it is after hours for your regular
veterinarian) or the ASPCA
immediately for assistance.
It has been quite the trend to dress pets up in costumes
for Halloween. Although it can be quite entertaining to see pets in costumes,
potential dangers do exist so precautions should be taken. Make sure that when
the pet is dressed in a costume there is no interference with breathing, and
the ability to see, hear, or move. In addition, if you plan to take your pet
out trick or treating with you/your family, especially when it is becoming
dark, it would be a good idea to have reflective collars or other reflective
materials to ease visibility. (This goes for you and the kids as well)
Referenced from an informational flyer
provided by the Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, IL
and the CVMA.