Halloween ghost dog

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – It's not unusual for pet parents to want to include their fur-kids in holiday celebrations, but it's important to remember that things that are fun for us bipeds are dangerous to our four-legged family members. Halloween is a prime example.

Dark chocolate

BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital says it sees a massive increase in chocolate toxicity cases – about 250% -- the week after Halloween. Now Halloween and chocolate pretty much go hand in hand. Humans love it. Pets do, too, but for them, it's potentially deadly. "The biggest risk for pets this time of year is candy ingestion," according to BluePearl. "And dogs and cats are great at mopping up candy on the floor, finding the candy basket, and getting up on counters to get their fix." Dark chocolate, often touted as having some health benefits for people, is highly toxic to our pets. Raisins are a no-no, too, as is xylitol, a common sugar substitute in sugar-free treats. BluePearl says one piece of sugar-free gum is all it takes to make a small pet sick.

Make sure your family's entire Halloween haul is put away where your pets cannot get at it. If you have talented fur-kids that can get into drawers or the pantry, make sure to put the candy and sweets out of their reach.

Where there's candy, there are wrappers and bags. These are choking hazards, and if your pet eats them (I once had a cat who loved biting plastic grocery bags.), they could end up with a gastrointestinal obstruction. That's potentially deadly and can require expensive and invasive surgery.

There's also the danger of suffocation. "Dogs, in particular, rummaging through bags can easily get their heads stuck in plastic bags, causing them to suffocate within minutes," according to BluePearl. "Once their head gets stuck, they panic, and hyperventilate, which will cause the bag to form a seal around the face depleting them of oxygen and can lead to death." Bottom line: Do not leave bags and wrappers in Fido's reach.

Now let's talk about props. Electrical props are inherently dangerous to chewers. (I had a cat – different cat – that would not be discouraged from biting electrical cords no matter how many times he shocked himself.)

"Chewing at the wires can cause burns on the tongue, gums, and even lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs," BluePearl says. "While electrocution injuries are not common, they can be life-threatening. Young animals, in particular, tend to be very curious and should be monitored closely if there are electrical devices that are accessible to them. If possible, completely cover or hide wires and outlets from all pets."

Burning candles

Candles are popular decorations for Halloween. Christmas, too. Again, danger, Will Robinson! "Not only are cats and dogs curious, but brushing up against an open flame can cause their fur to catch on fire, and even lead to a house fire," according to BluePearl. (Guess what? I had a cat – the one who liked plastic bags -- who singed his belly fur on a candle that he tried to step over on the window ledge. No permanent damage, luckily.) Don't mess with flames. Battery-operated candles are the best way to go.

Some pet-parents love to put their animals in Halloween costumes. Some pets are cool with that; others are definitely not. If your fur-kid is in the latter category, don't force it. If your pet doesn't mind the costume, the ASPCA has a safety checklist, similar to what you would check for a child's costume. 

"Make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow," the organization says. "Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury." If you're taking your pets out, try their costume on them first to give it a test run.

Veterinarian microchipping puppy

Vets use a needle and special syringe in implant a microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, between your pet's shoulder blades. It's a lot like a shot but with a larger needle.

Finally, trick-or-treaters are generally a given on Halloween. The constant ringing of the doorbell and costumed strangers on their turf can spook dogs and stress them out. It's also easy for any animal to scoot out the often-open door and get lost. To minimize stress, put the fur-kids in a quiet room with soothing music, a few favorite toys, and maybe a treat or two. If your pet is prone to severe anxiety, talk to your vet about medications and supplements that can help. If your pet is a door-darter (like both previously mentioned Holland cats), you'll want to keep a close eye on them or even consider securing them in another room. On the preventative side, pet experts suggest microchipping your pet. Whether on a chip or on their collar tags, make sure all of your contact information is up to date. You can't be reunited with a lost pet if nobody can contact you. "A collar with ID tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver for a lost pet," the ASPCA says. 

If you've lost or found a pet

🡕 Maricopa County Animal Care and Control: Lost and found pets

🡕 MCACC: Real-time map tool

☎ Call MCACC's Lost and Found Department at 602-372-4598.

🡕 Arizona Humane Society's Lost Animal Report form

Check online

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