I love Halloween. For some reason there’s nothing I like more than dressing up. "Grace Kelly after the crash" was my personal favorite, but "shoe whore" comes in a close second (I’m gratified that no pictures of this latter costume have ever come to light). Getting the idea? Yet there’s more than the indelibility of photography to fear during this time of the year. To that end, here’s my top five list of Halloween hazards for pets:
It's not just the strings, buttons, clasps and other indigestibles that can lead to serious injuries and require surgical intervention. Seams, studs, zippers and other notions can cut, pinch and even rip delicate skin. I once even had to unglue a dog from her costume. Years later, she probably still has glitter glue scarred into her skin.
In still-hot South Florida, especially (but maybe where you live, too), heat stroke is also a strong possibility for dogs who are wearing heavy costumes and undertaking extra exercise during special Halloween events (dog park meet-ups, costume parades, Halloween parties, trick-or-treating). Which is why parading overweight and heavily costumed pets up and down South Beach’s Lincoln Road this holiday weekend is something I’m recommending against for my clients.
2. Glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark jewelry
These have been very popular over the last few years. Every kid on the block seems to keep a stash of these. Of course they do. They're fun to play with, and apparently, they’re fun to chew on, too … until the glow-ey stuff (phenol) starts leaking out and burning your tongue. I’ve never tried it but I once had to treat a very uncomfortable cat who did. Luckily, the plastic container hadn't been swallowed. I’ve heard of that happening, too.
3. Chocolates and candies
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine that can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, and if ingested in large enough quantities, potentially fatal heart rhythms. Dark chocolate contains far more of this substance than its milkier cousins, so be especially careful with those 70 percent cacao bars. Just one four-ouncer can kill a medium-sized dog.
Candies are troublesome for dogs and cats not just because sugars and fats can lead to severe gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis, but because the wrappers are commonly implicated in GI obstructions. Foil wrappers are the worst. I once extracted a bunched up wad of Twix bar wrappers from the intestines of a teensy dog. (Even five mini-Twix wrappers will do more damage than all its chocolate can deliver.)
Then there's the dreaded xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that's increasingly prevalent in candies you might not suspect they live in. Just a few sugar-free Tic-Tacs can kill your dog. While this is sugar holiday number one, it's time to be on alert for the possibility that sugar-free stuff will be sneaking in under the radar.
Some dogs exhibit a unique sensitivity to raisins and grapes — one that can lead to rapid kidney failure. And because healthy households often prefer to distribute small boxes of raisins during Halloween … you should beware!
It's fairly common for shelters to experience an uptick in lost and found pets in the days immediately following the Halloween holiday. Doors opening and shutting for trick-or-treaters — along with all the stress, excitement and fear of costumed humans — means pets on the loose. Keep your pets behind two sets of doors for best results. And keep them tagged and microchipped, just in case!
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: "Slumdog says 'Happy Halloween!'" by Me