By Dr. Kim Cargill, DVM
Pumpkins, costumes, candy, trick or treating; jubilant children and adults dressed in fanciful costumes. That’s what Halloween is about for so many people. At the veterinary clinic, we look forward to all the pet’s coming in for their appointments in their seasonal attire. But for our pet’s Halloween can be something very different. Their adults are coming at them with foreign costumes, snapping pictures. Even if the pets themselves are not being dressed up, suddenly there’s strange looking people ringing their door bells and shouting multiple times in one evening. While many pets may relish in the excitement and attention, others may find this stressful and/or even fearful.
So what can we do to ensure all our pets have a happy and joyful Halloween? The first step is to know your pet as an individual. If your pet is normally shy or anxious, it may be best to protect them from some of the chaos. If you have a lot of trick or treaters that come to your house, maybe keep that pet in a separate room with some music or the tv playing as a distraction. Maybe that pet is not the one you take to the pet costume contest; instead that may be the pet that you dress up at home and take a solitary picture of for Facebook. However, if your pet is well mannered but outgoing, then the costume contest may be a great idea. This pet may even accompany you trick or treating, as long as you are taking proper precautions to ensure the pet’s safety. These precautions may include reflective tape on the pet’s costume so they can be spotted in the dark, making sure the pet is safely secured with a leash, harness, etc; and making sure the pet’s costume is comfortable for a longer walk.
Additionally, many of the items associated with the human celebration of Halloween may pose a risk to your pets, so it is important to take precautions with that as well. Making sure costume materials such as ribbons, beads, and feathers are kept safely stowed away is important. And of course, there is the risk many people think of – the candy. While most of us are aware that chocolate is toxic, too much sugary treats can also result in pancreatitis. The artificial sweetener xylitol – which is found in many low calorie gums and candies, can result in liver failure. Raisins, a healthy treat for us, can result in kidney disease in dogs.
Involving your pets in your Halloween festivities can be fun and rewarding for both you and your pets. Just remember to tailor your celebrations to the needs of your pet and take precautions to keep your pet away from all the people treats!