Happy Halloween from Pet Poison Helpline®!

By Amanda Poldoski, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline®

Holiday Halloween Pumpkin PugWe LOVE Halloween here at Pet Poison Helpline® and are prepping for our own party on the big day.  Still, during all the fun our goal is to help keep pets safe and healthy!  Here are some reminders and tips for the season:

Glow sticks and glow jewelry:  While the liquid inside these fun favors does not cause systemic toxicity or organ damage, it CAN cause oral irritation and a very bitter taste if ingested.  Following ingestion, dogs and cats can develop profound drooling or foaming at the mouth and may act agitated due to the bitter taste and irritation in their mouths.

Raisins:  Beware of raisins!  Raisins (and grapes) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney failure in dogs, and possibly cats. If you find a little box of raisins or chocolate-covered raisins (a double whammy!) in your treat bag, just be sure to keep them away from your pup (and kitty).  Since some dogs may be more sensitive to grapes and raisins than others any ingestion should be cause for concern!

Xylitol: Many sugar-free gums, mints, and candies contain xylitol as a sweetener. Xylitol can cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and even liver failure in dogs, depending on the amount ingested. The amount of xylitol in products can vary greatly depending on the brand and even the flavor! So check labels closely and keep xylitol out of your pet’s reach.

Chocolate: Of course, chocolate. Who can have Halloween without chocolate? Not me. I’m just sure to keep it up and away from my furry friends. Both dogs and cats can develop toxicity depending on the amount, and type, of chocolate ingested. However, the vast majority of our calls involve dogs. Keep in mind that chocolate toxicity is very dose-dependent – the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is due to its higher methylxanthine content. Methylxanthines, chemicals related to caffeine, can cause agitation, increase heart rate and blood pressure, arrhythmias, tremors, and seizures. Vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst are also common signs following chocolate ingestion.

Safety Tips: If you are like me and have an anxious dog, consider keeping them confined to one area of your home, or their kennel, away from Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween night.  Groups of strangers dressed up in crazy costumes can be quite intimidating and distressing for some dogs.  Best to keep them in their own comfy, calm space.

If you do take your dog along for Trick-or-Treating (if they don’t mind seeing all the little ghosts and goblins) consider these tips:

  • Be sure your dog is wearing an identification tag and proper licences, in case they do slip away!
  • Avoid costumes for your pet that may impede their vision, ability to breathe, and normal gait.
  • Avoid retractable leashes. Using a sturdy non-retractable leash gives you better control in case your dog gets spooked or tries to bolt.
  • Make your dog visible! As for any night walks, make sure both you and your dog are easily seen by motorists. Add reflective tape to your dog’s collar and leash, attach a blinking light to their collar, or even use a vest with reflective material. Too often in my own neighborhood there are people out for a walk at night dressed head-to-toe in dark clothing and walking a dog with dark fur. You can barely see them!

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, contact your veterinarian or call Pet Poison Helpline® right away at 1-800-213-6680.

Have a safe and very happy Halloween!