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ASPCA Offers Tips to Pet Owners for a Safe 'Howl'-o-ween

Some Halloween traditions prompt calls to ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center
October 5, 2011

NEW YORK--Keeping pets safe on Halloween shouldn't be a scary endeavor, and to help prepare pet owners for the creepy and the kooky, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) released a list of the top five threats to pets on Halloween.

"Many of our favorite Halloween traditions could pose a potential threat to our companion animals," says Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "As you start to make plans for trick-or-treating or prepare your costumes, you should be aware of the dangers of some Halloween-related products and activities."

Here are just some of the ways animal lovers can keep their pets safe this Halloweensummer:

  • No Sweets for Your Sweetie. Several popular Halloween treats are toxic to pets, especially candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in your dog's blood sugar, which may lead to lack of coordination, seizures and depression. "Chocolate, especially baker's and dark chocolate, can also be potentially poisonous to animals, especially dogs," advises Dr. DeClementi. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, heart rhythm abnormalities, and even seizures.
  • Careful with costumes. If you dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe, bark, eat, drink or eliminate. Also check the costume for choking hazards. A smart alternative to dressing your pet from head-to-paw? A simple, festive Halloween bandanna.
  • Watch out for those wrappers. Cats love to play with candy wrappers, but ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can cause intestinal blockage and induce vomiting.
  • Trick-or-treating is for kids, not pets. During trick-or-treating hours it is best to keep pets in a room away from all the excitement at the front door. "Be sure that your pet has ID tags should he or she accidentally get loose," adds Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center. "Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors constantly arriving at the door, and pets can easily slip out unnoticed." Making sure your pet is always wearing a collar with ID tags and is micro-chipped can greatly increase the chances that they will be returned home if lost.
  • Decorations can be dangerous. Re-think putting candles in Jack-o'-lanterns. Pets can easily knock these over and start a fire, and curious kittens are particularly at risk of getting burned by candle flames. Also take care to prevent your pets from having access to wires and cords from holiday decorations. If chewed, a wire can damage your pet's mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock. Pumpkins themselves are relatively non-toxic, but could cause upset stomachs in pets that nibble on them.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests any potentially harmful products and you need emergency advice, please consult your veterinarian or call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 (a fee applies) or www.aspca.org/apcc.