Halloween is here!
This fun fall holiday is celebrated all around the world and has ties to many different cultures, with a history spanning over a thousand years. In our modern time, Halloween is a holiday marked by trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns, and costumes and treats of all flavors. It is the first true taste of the fall season and a great reason to get together with friends and family. Halloween is not always a favorable time for pets, however. This time of year, it is especially important to be vigilant your pet’s safety and comfort.
The Dangers of Food
At some point in your life you’ve heard someone say “don’t give the dog chocolate!” So why is chocolate so deadly to our pets? The answer comes from the very source of chocolate – the Cacao tree. Cocoa, along with other byproducts of the cacao bean, contains a chemical compound called Theobromine. This alkaloid is considered a stimulant, similar to caffeine, and has been associated with the mood-elevating effect chocolate has on us. Many common mammals, including humans, lack the ability to metabolize this chemical properly. Humans can tolerate a moderate amount of theobromine in their diets. Usually our bodies are able to tell us well before we reach the toxic threshold that we’ve had too much. Dogs, on the other hand, can only tolerate a miniscule amount in comparison, but are able to inhale large quantities in a short period of time, without thought to their health. A rapid buildup of theobromine, usually the result of rapid consumption of very rich, dark chocolate, can result in seizures, heart failure, internal bleeding, and death. While one M&M may not be enough to put your dog in dire peril, it’s never a good idea to get them introduced to any human food, let alone chocolate, because where there is one, more are likely to be within reach.
Cats and Halloween
If you own a cat, be sure to keep him indoors on Halloween. It’s a horrible thing to think about, but there are people in the world, even in your neighborhood, that view Halloween as a time for anonymous mischief, and more often than not, neighborhood cats become the target of abuse. As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, cats are curious creatures by nature and will often stick their noses where they shouldn’t, leading to burned whiskers and ingested bits of foil wrapper discarded from ‘human’ treats. If you have a nervous cat, the sound of a doorbell ringing and the presence of strange people will likely cause your cat to want to run the first chance he has to get out the door. To curb this urge, keep your cat tucked safely in a room away from the front of your house. Halloween celebrating doesn’t last but a few hours, and your cat will appreciate the safe haven once the trick-or-treaters begin knocking.
Costumes on Pets
Everywhere you look, you can find costumes for pets. Every pop culture reference imaginable has a doggy-sized outfit made in its image. While many pets are fairly accepting of dressing up, not all are willing to have a night on the town dressed as Spider-man or Tinkerbell. If you’re going to dress your pet up this year, make sure they are comfortable and unrestricting, and don’t dress your pet in anything that will restrict hearing, vision, or breathing.
Fear and Anxiety
Even pets who are willing to dress up for Halloween can be uneasy around strangers wearing costumes and masks. Dogs recognize people by scent and sound, but also by sight. If you are wearing a mask and costume, don’t be surprised if your beloved companion wants nothing to do with you. The number of dog bites increases this time of year because people approach familiar dogs while wearing unfamiliar attire and the dog gets spooked. Play it safe and don’t approach dogs during Halloween unless they can identify you 100%. Approaching a dog that is already frightened, can be a dangerous situation. To keep your own pet from having issues with neighborhood children and adults, a humane crate or even a closed bedroom can be a safe haven for the night.
Halloween is meant to be a fun fall celebration for the family, which includes your pets. Keep them safe and healthy this year and always.