Points on Pets

Halloween Tips for Fido and Felix

By Dr. Karen McConnell

For Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest pet health insurance provider, the most frightening aspect of Halloween is the increase in pet accidents and injuries, especially from ingestion of chocolate, a poison for animals. Each year, the haunting holiday is followed by a 30 percent rise in claims for pet poisonings and foreign body ingestions – incidents that can be prevented. Pet owners are encouraged to follow these simple to avoid accidents and ensure pet safety this Halloween:

  1. 1. Keep candy and treats sealed and out of reach from pets. The amount of claims for substance toxicity more than doubles following Halloween, a majority of these claims come as a result of pets ingesting candy and used candy wrappers. Chocolate can be toxic, if not deadly for pets, depending upon how much they eat and the size of the pet. Store treats in a place where your pet cannot reach it and take out the trash regularly to avoid the pet’s temptation to dig out used wrappers.
  1. 2. Place festive decorations out of the reach from pets. Foreign body ingestion claims also increase significantly in late fall, nearly doubling after Halloween. Chew toys are designed for pets to chew on, but Halloween decorations are not. Pets have a hard time distinguishing any small object from another and if it’s shiny and small, your pet will eat it. If you like to decorate for Halloween, stay away from small or low-hanging items, or even large items with parts that could appeal to a pet.
  1. 3. Designate a secure spot for your pet inside your home. Since traffic to your door will increase dramatically on Halloween night, guard your pet from excessive stress or barking by keeping him inside and away from the front door. Also, remember that Halloween night is prime time for pranks, some harmless and some vicious. Keep your pet inside the entire night to make sure he doesn’t become a victim of prank.
  1. 4. Exercise caution when walking your pet outside. If you decide to bring your pet trick or treating, grab the leash and prepare to hold it tightly. Many of the sights and sounds of Halloween can startle or frighten a pet. Frequently scan the ground for dropped candy that your pet may want to consume.
  1. 5. If you dress your pet for Halloween, make sure the outfit is roomy, reflective and fire retardant. Lit pumpkins or candles may line house walkways creating a fire hazard. Also, make certain that your pet’s costume doesn’t include easily accessible parts that could be chewed off or swallowed. Be careful with masks and capes that tie on to your pet; a piece of costume tied too tight could cut off circulation or choke your pet. To prevent your pet from stumbling while dressed up, avoid costumes that hang low, drag on the ground or block your pet’s vision.

A little extra care can make a significant difference in preventing tragic and potentially costly pet accidents this Halloween. While we all expect a happy and safe holiday, as a pet owner, understanding the risks to your pet’s health is part of responsible care.

Dr. Karen McConnell is the chief veterinary officer from VPI.

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