Image via Dragon Images/Shutterstock.com
By Nancy Dunham
The Halloween decor you choose for your party is more important than you think.
Even though this holiday doesn’t involve turkey bones, toxic plants and other obvious pet hazards, it still presents plenty of pet safety issues. Here are a few Halloween safety hazards to avoid when decorating so your four-legged friends can enjoy the holiday, too.
Skip the Sweet Decorations
Tables full of candy corn, chocolates, giant gum “eyeballs” and other sweets are all part of the Halloween tradition. Centerpieces created with candy, candied apples and Halloween-themed lollipops are also popular Halloween decor. However, they can pose some serious Halloween safety concerns for your pet.
Don’t buy or make those, suggests Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM of Los Angeles, California. “Even many sugarless candies and mints have ingredients that are extremely dangerous to pets,” he says. “Don't leave them out on tables or decorate with them.”
And take extra caution when you and your guests are munching on treats.
“Candy isn't good for our pets, so keep those away,” says author and certified professional dog trainer Nicole Ellis in Los Angeles, California. “Remember, candy can easily be dropped on the floor by trick-or-treaters, so make sure your pet doesn't pick any up.”
Avoid Spider Web Halloween Decorations
You’ve likely seen the spider web decorations that people attach to light fixtures, doors and even picture frames. Avoid it, says Dr. Werber. “It could be a major issue if a cat is caught in it,” he says. “They can be a safety issue.”
Some pets find the webs enticing and try to chew on them.
“Many enjoy eating them, which, as with candy wrappers and tin foil, can lead to intestinal obstruction and vomiting, necessitating an expensive visit to the local pet emergency facility,” says Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Forego Decorative Corn and Balloons
Other Halloween decor favorites are ornamental corncobs and balloons. While many people hang both high up where they’re generally out of reach of pets, they can still fall, allowing pets to chew and ingest them. Some people mistakenly think that a corncob is harmless and might even make a perfect “chew toy” for a dog.
Corncobs are indigestible, which means they can cause stomach problems, like intestinal blockages or an upset stomach. If parts are inhaled, they can even obstruct airways so that the pet can’t breathe, says Dr. Werber. The same is true of balloons.
When you’re answering doors on Halloween, you might not realize that your pet has gotten ahold of a corncob or balloon until it’s too late, so it’s better to avoid them.
Place Pumpkins Out of Reach
Pumpkin can be a nutritious addition to a pet’s diet, but not if we’re talking about the Halloween jack-o-lantern. Carved pumpkins can pose some serious pet safety issues. Large chucks that aren’t chewed well can become lodged in the intestinal tract, and potentially toxic mold quickly grows in carved pumpkins that aren’t refrigerated.
Be Careful With Lighting
Candles in pumpkins and glow sticks that are used as part of holiday light displays can be dangerous, too.
Of course, candles can easily start fires if tipped over or if your pet brushes against them. Consider using battery-powered jack-o’-lantern bulbs as a safe alternative to candles, says Dr. Osborne. Just make sure that pets don’t chew on cords or on any batteries you are using to power your Halloween decor.
It also best to avoid glow sticks, which can be irritating if chewed or ingested. While the liquid within a glow stick is nontoxic for pets, the experience of ingesting it can be very unpleasant.
It tastes awful and cannot be easily spit out, so it can cause uncontrollable drooling, agitation and sometimes vomiting in pets. Some of the larger glow sticks contain a small glass vial that needs to be broken to activate the liquid, so it is best to not keep these in areas that your pet can access.
And, of course, make sure that pets don’t chew on electrical cords, either.
Limit Fog and Sound Machines
Although fog and sound machines generally don’t cause injury to pets, the noise and vibration they create can cause undue stress and can be frightening. In fact, some pets may become so frightened that they might run out the door, says Ellis.
“If you have a dog (or other pet) that likes to bolt out the door, find a relaxing spot in the house for them to stay until visitors are gone,” she says. “Always take precautions and make sure your pets tags are readable and up-to-date (as well as their microchip).”
By taking a few extra steps, you can make Halloween decorations not only fun but also safe for everyone in your house.