It’s almost here and too often most people don’t realize how scary and actually dangerous Halloween can be for our pets. They tend to think of it as just a mostly fun filled entrée to Fall for children and adults alike but what about our furry companions?

It can actually be quite frightening for them, the constant knocking or door bell ringing, strange looking people showing up at the door making sounds, sometimes in sizable groups. This is especially noticeable in pets that are more accustomed to a relatively quiet routine.

You need to really watch for frightened or excited pets darting out an open door and racing into the street. Incidences of animals being hit by vehicles sadly tend to escalate due to this. You may see evidence of fear based aggression triggered by territorial or fear responses to all the ghouls and goblins, the laughter, the noise, the yelling and excitement.

The safest thing that you can do for your pet is to crate them comfortably or tuck them in a safe room away from all the excitement. In my case, I have two very friendly, rambunctious Springers who just love people and their reaction is to bark and run around and to try to rush out and meet everyone! My two cats, on the other had, are what I would call typical cats, they’re not interested and they really don’t care. They usually just go to one of their comfy spots and nap till all the commotion is over. Needless to say, I make sure my dogs are safely out of the way until the evening’s festivities are done with.

Another thing that I don’t even like to think about but it needs to be mentioned is the ‘Black Cat’ concern. As we all know, there are a lot of weirdoes out there and sometimes around Halloween black cats can be in peril. Many shelters actually will not adopt out black cats during this season. I’m not going to go into details but if a black cat is part of your family, just take the precaution of making sure they are safe at home during this time of year. Why take a chance?

And last, but certainly not least, the candy! This is more of a danger for dogs than cats because often dogs have a tendency to eat anything and everything, wrappers included! High quantities of sugar are obviously not good for our pets, they may just wound up hyper and ‘bouncing off the walls’ or it may make them sick; vomiting and diarrhea, or worse.

With concerns about sugar, there are quite a few sugar free candies/gums on the market today and the big concern here is Xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is commonly used in sugar-free gum, beverages and candies, among other products. It is commercially produced from birch and other hardwood trees, wood chips and corn cobs.

Dogs who ingest Xylitol release massive amounts of insulin because Xylitol is about four times sweeter than sugar, and the pancreas responds proportionately. Evidence of hypoglycemia includes weakness, tremors and seizures. Hypoglycemia does not occur in all victims and may even occur up to two to four days. The dose required to cause problems for a pet varies, in any case, no dog should be allowed access to anything containing Xylitol, even in small quantities.

Dogs can experience gastrointestinal signs: vomiting and diarrhea but if ingested in sufficient amounts or if they are sufficiently sensitive to it, they can experience liver damage and anemia. The damage to the liver may be mild or severe. Those who survive initially may show icterus (jaundice, yellowing of the eyes and skin), bilirubinuria (red urine which may be confused with blood in the urine, caused by breakdown of red blood cells in circulation), loss of appetite and extreme lethargy. Bleeding may occur as a result of damage to clotting factors in the body.

Obviously, if you are concerned that your dog may have ingested Xylitol, they will need veterinarian treatment immediately.

Then we have the old stand-by, chocolate. I like to think that most dog owners by now know the dangers of chocolate but unfortunately too many still do not. Chocolate contains a substance called the obromine which is toxic to dogs. Baking chocolate and dark chocolate is especially dangerous. While it usually takes a somewhat large amount of chocolate to kill a dog, poisoning and death does occur with smaller amounts ingested. Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, and increased activity. This can progress to seizures and unusual heart rhythms. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate.

And lastly, the wrappers. Most of the time this is not a problem but occasionally it may cause blockage, especially if there were a quantity of wrappers ingested. Usually you just need to wait and watch. You can also help out by giving your dog something else to eat to help move things along by increasing bowel activity. Another option is lubrication. That’s right, lubrication. This will speed up movement of any foreign object. The safest and most effective one is Vaseline. The Vaseline dose is 1 tablespoon per 10 lbs. Place it on the roof of your pet’s mouth. If you actually see the object protruding from your pet’s throat or anus, like it or not, the safest thing to do is help remove it if your pet doesn’t seem to be able to manage the job on its own. If the foreign object becomes a problem, often evidenced by bouts of vomiting and sometimes a distended abdomen, it’s time to see the vet. X-rays and surgery may be necessary.

So, for your pet’s sake, let go over this again quickly, basically two things; tuck your pet away safely until the festivities are over and keep the candy out of reach! The results otherwise can be more than scary, they can be downright dangerous.

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