Pooches and pumpkins: how to keep your dog safe on Halloween
Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at the video vet service FirstVet, gives the inside track on how to celebrate Halloween with a dog, while avoiding any potential hazards.
As the leaves start to fall and the nights draw in, it is time to start turning our attention to all things scary. Halloween is approaching and this year, many are preparing to celebrate at home. This means that pets will be part of the festivities, creating a great opportunity to let dogs in on the fun of Halloween. However, before you start decorating the house and dressing up in costume it is important to ensure that your spooky plans are pet-safe, so that you avoid any unnecessary frights on the night!
Chocolate and sweets
This one may seem obvious, but it is easy to get caught out with so much confectionery around. Theobromine is found in cocoa, and it is poisonous to dogs. In fact, when it comes to confectionery you’ll find that the higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous it is for your furry friend. Sweets are also dangerous for dogs, not only because of their high sugar content, but because many of them contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is also toxic to dogs. Other foods that are dangerous to dogs, such as grapes or nuts, should also be kept well away from the festivities.
Try to make sure that your dog is not able to snaffle any sweet treats while you’re not looking by keeping them in cupboards or on high shelves that are out of reach. If your dog does manage to eat something from the trick or treat bag, get to a vet as soon as possible. Try to get a wrapper to show to the vet, so they can be as informed as possible when making a treatment plan. If your pet is feeling left out, you can also buy dog friendly treats, such as dog chocolate, but be careful to avoid any mix ups!
Pumpkin can make a great Halloween-themed treat for dogs, as long as it is prepared properly and served in moderation. Any pumpkin that you give to your dog should be cooked through and have no extra spices. When dishing this out, dogs should only be given around a tablespoon of cooked pumpkin per day, perhaps as a topping for their meals. Raw pumpkin or spicy foods can cause digestive problems for dogs. These should be avoided to ensure you steer clear of any nasty surprises this Halloween.
Spookifying the home
Halloween decorations can be exciting for dogs, as well as their owners. It’s best to be careful when decorating your home or garden. Overexcited pooches may try to eat any low hanging ornaments, which could become lodged in their intestines or stomach. In order to keep dogs safe from this risk, they should be kept away from Halloween decorations. All decorations should be placed out of reach – especially those that they are at risk of swallowing or getting tangled in.
If some of your Halloween celebrations are taking place outside, make sure that your dog is clearly visible by using fluorescent reflectors. These can come in the form of a vest, collar, harness or blanket. They are a good way of making sure that your dog doesn’t get lost during all of the festivities.
Although dressing up for Halloween can be part of the fun, remember that dogs can’t understand that you are in costume, so may be frightened by masks or Halloween make up. Loud noises can also be unsettling for dogs. If you are planning any spooky pranks or exploding fireworks, make sure that your dog is a safe distance away and with someone that they know and trust.
If you are getting your dog involved in the fancy dress, be aware of how they react to the clothes. Some dogs may be uncomfortable in fancy dress, so if they look sheepish or keep trying to remove their costume, it is best to leave them out of the fancy dress theme. For those that are comfortable with wearing fancy dress, remember to use flameproof and non-toxic clothing, and to stick to products that your dog is happy wearing.
This is a guest essay by Dr Jessica May.