Most people know that chocolate is toxic for dogs – this is especially true of baking chocolate and dark chocolate. Many do not know, however, that chocolate may be equally poisonous for cats. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that most cats are less likely than the average dog to sneak a bite of the sweet treat. But if your cat is one of those especially curious types, you should take extra precautions – especially as Halloween approaches.
There is a lot to be aware of at this time of year in order to keep our furry family members safe and happy.
While chocolate is a no-no for pets, don't assume that other kinds of Halloween candy are safe for animals, either.
“An artificial sweetener called xylitol is in many candies and can cause sudden drops in blood sugar, loss of coordination and seizures in animals,” says Dr. Assaf Goldberg, a veterinarian at the RAPS Animal Hospital. “It can potentially lead to liver failure in dogs.”
While research does not yet indicate toxicity levels in cats, vets recommend keeping all candy safely hidden away from pets.
Symptoms to look out for include diarrhea, vomiting, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and possibly seizures.
Glow sticks should also be kept away from pets. The liquid that gives the novelty items their effervescence is not toxic in itself but — according to those in the know — the taste is nasty and could lead animals to become upset, scratch at their mouths and vomit. Food and water can help your pet overcome the unpleasantness but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A few other things we might not always think about include the kinds of ornamental items we use at Halloween.
“Pumpkins, dried corn and gourds may not necessarily be unsafe for animals, but could cause gastrointestinal problems if consumed in quantity,” says Dr. Goldberg. “Potentially of more concern is that we often leave our jack-o'-lanterns sitting around for quite some time. If they become moldy, those spores can lead to neurological problems in animals.”
Also, remember that pets can bump into jack-o'-lanterns and, if there is a burning candle inside, cause harm to themselves or potentially incinerate the entire house.
“As veterinarians, we are primarily concerned with the physical well-being of animals,” adds Dr. Goldberg. “But, of course, emotional well-being is critical to overall health too. Keeping your animals free from fear during Halloween is important – and keeps them from getting scared and disoriented and possibly fleeing and getting lost.”
The RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter receives more lost pets during Halloween than at any other time of year. Before Halloween: Make sure you have a dog license and that your pets have tattoos and/or microchips.
Dr. Goldberg recommends keeping pets in an enclosed room – inaccessible from the opening and closing front door as trick-or-treaters stream by. Use some music or TV as white noise to block out the sound of fireworks and other unfamiliar noises.
Halloween is meant to be a fun and scary time. For pets, though, being scared is not fun. A few easy precautions can prevent tragedy.
“We would love to see your cat or dog,” says Dr. Goldberg. “But not because of an emergency. Preventative care is always best … and with a few preventative steps, this Halloween can be safe and happy for your human and four-legged family members.”