BOISE, Idaho, 10/21/10 — Keeping dogs and cats indoors during Halloween celebrations is important for pet health and safety. In addition, pets must be supervised more carefully at this time of the year, as veterinarians often report large increases in dog and cat injuries and illness in the days following Halloween.
According to Dr. James E. Israelsen, DVM, the biggest Halloween-related problem seen in his North Logan and Providence, Utah hospitals is the curious ingestion of candy and wrappers left out by children following a night of trick-or-treating. Chocolate poisoning in dogs is a dangerous yet commonly-treated issue.
“Chocolate can be very toxic and even potentially fatal to pets,” said Dr. Israelsen, Hospital Director of the Mountain View Veterinary Health Center. “Even if the candy is not chocolate, candies high in sugar or fat can cause potentially life-threatening metabolic conditions, including pancreatitis, kidney failure, or gastroenteritis. Sugar-free gums containing Xylitol are also dangerous, and can cause hypoglycemia, weakness, seizures, or coma in dogs.”
Dr. Israelsen also recommends pet owners refrain from decorating with artificial spider-web material. “If ingested, these can cause serious gastrointestinal irritation, and can even cause intestinal obstruction requiring surgery in severe cases,” he said.
Anxiety levels in animals should also be supervised during Halloween. Changes in the environment can create an imbalance in the safety an animal usually feels at home. During Halloween, pet stress can be caused by loud children, screams, strangers at the door, and the unfamiliar sights and smells of both people and pet Halloween costumes.
Pets should not be taken along trick-or-treating. Instead, they should be confined to an enclosed room or crate to prevent escape or wandering. Although more pets are reported missing during the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of the year, the increase is again due to fear and anxiety, caused by loud fireworks.
It is often suggested that pets remain indoors during the month of October for another reason: the danger of pet theft and rituals. This message is usually specifically geared toward all-black or all-white cats. However, news outlets now often report that this message has been hyped.
National Geographic News reported in 2007 that according to experts, the danger is largely a myth. Dr. Israelsen agrees. “I do not feel that black cats are any more prone to disappearing on Halloween than other days of the year,” said the veterinarian. Although many shelters continue to restrict the adoption of black cats during October, and both pet theft and animal cruelty are real dangers throughout the year, the majority of cruelty cases point to mentally challenged individuals rather than witchcraft.
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