While Halloween may be fun for boys and ghouls, the evening can often prove more of a trick than a treat for many dogs and cats.
Claremore Animal Shelter Director Jennifer Cummings wants to ensure the occasion is safe not only for trick-or-treaters but for their four-legged friends as well.
“As fun as the evening can be for children and their parents, Halloween can be upsetting — even dangerous — for dogs and cats,” Cummings said. “It’s important that pet owners be aware of the seasonal risks that arise this time of the year.”
Foremost among the dangers presented around Halloween is the increased presence of snacks, with chocolate being a particular hazard to dogs.
“People should always keep the candy and chocolate they’re going to hand out to trick-or-treaters well out of their pet’s reach,” Cummings said, “and when people bring their own children home from an evening of trick-or-treating, after inspecting the candy for their children’s safety, they should put it away for their pet’s safety — never leave candy or chocolate on a low counter top or coffee table where a pet can get to it.”
Chocolate presents a particular danger, Cummings said, because of the theobromine it contains — a substance which can be toxic to dogs.
“If ingested, theobromine releases the chemical epinephrine or adrenaline into a dog’s system, which can quickly cause serious cardiac arrhythmia to develop,” she said.
But chocolate isn’t the only kind of sweet which can be harmful to pets, Cummings said.
“Halloween treats — like any candy — aren’t meant for pets,” she said. “Most Halloween candy comes wrapped which, if a pet is left alone with, it will eat. Candy wrappers and lollipop sticks can pose choking hazards to a pet and, if eaten, can upset the pets digestion, causing constipation, diarrhea or — in the worst case — become an obstruction which could mean surgery. Don’t ever give your pet candy — Halloween, or otherwise.”
Cummings said the activity leading up to, and particularly on Halloween night, can be unnerving for most animals.
“If you have inside pets that are easily excited or upset by strangers at the door, you’ll want to move them into another room to keep them from getting worked up by trick-or-treaters,” she said. “Even if they don’t get worked up by strangers at the door, you should probably isolate them for the night, so they won’t be accidentally dart outside while the door is open.”
Cummings said always keep a tag on your dog or cat “not just on Halloween,” in the event that they get out or escape, so they can be traced back to you.
Outside pets are also subject to “time outs” for their own protection on Halloween.
“If possible, you might want to consider bringing your (outside) pet in for Halloween night. Even friendly dogs can be anxious with all the strange sights and sounds on Halloween night — they don’t understand,” she said. “To them, it’s like the whole world has gone crazy — it can be traumatic for them, so it’s best to bring them in, away from all the commotion, if it’s possible.
“Plus, indoor pets are much less likely to be victims of Halloween pranks,” she added.
Cummings said that although she’s uncertain of the statistics, she and other animal shelter employees are familiar with the increased danger to pets on Halloween — black cats, in particular.
“It’s terrible that there are misguided people out there who would intentionally hurt animals, but there are,” she said. “For their own protection, we don’t adopt out any black cats around Halloween — we just feel better keeping them safe here until after the Halloween season has passed.”
Other considerations around Halloween include burning candles inside Jack O’Lanterns — keep pets away from them as they could singe their fur or unintentionally start a fire — and only put a costume on your pet if it’s comfortable with it.
“Some people enjoy dressing their pets up for Halloween and taking them trick-or-treating,” Cummings said. “If you do this, make sure the pet stays on a non-retractible leash at all times and can’t get away from you. Odds are, the pet may be a little skittish anyway from all the activity and may behave a little defensively — this could mean even normally well-behaved pets could try to bite someone, so it’s also very important that your pets be up to date on their vaccinations, should there be any accidents.”
People dressing their pets up in for Halloween also should be sure the costume isn’t constricting or unsafe to the pet, Cummings said, and to be sure the costume doesn’t obstruct the pet’s vision.
Ultimately, Cummings reminds people to enjoy Halloween, but be mindful that a pet’s safety depends on its owner.
“Halloween can be a fun time for everyone, and with some common sense and consideration for your pets, it can be a safe one, too,” she said.
Claremore Animal Shelter is located at 815 Ramm Road in Claremore. For inquiries on pet availability, contact the Shelter at 341-1260.