Posted 12th Oct 2017 by Peter Byrne
Halloween can be a great time of year to give ourselves a little fright, but sadly for our four-legged companions, it won't always be fun
Bonfire Night is the same - it can be magical for us, with firework displays and bonfires taking place, but can prove stressful and dangerous for our four legged friends.
Both celebrations will pose a distressing time to our pets if we don't take in to consideration that what we consider to be entertaining can actually make them feel upset or even ill.
To help, Natures Menu's veterinary team have offered their top tips on what you can do to allow you and your pet to safely enjoy the celebrations together.
Trick or treating will be the best part of Halloween for most children, but some of these could pose a threat to your pets:
- Chocolate is poisonous, with clinical symptoms depending on the type and amount that has been consumed. In most cases, symptoms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting and restlessness. In the more severe cases, the symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizures and even heart failure.
- Some sweets will contain an artificial sweetener called XYLITOL. This is poisonous to pets - if your dog should ingest the sweetener, it can cause vomiting, loss of coordination and seizures. In the more severe cases, it can even result in liver failure.
- If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, you should call your vet immediately for advice.
- Despite this, you should ensure your pet doesn't miss out on the fun by giving some pet-friendly treats of their own.
Pumpkins, decorations and fireworks
- Pumpkins aren't toxic but if they're consumed in large quantities, they can result in stomach upsets for your pet. Another thing to consider - as they're typically illuminated using a candle, they can also pose a potential fire risk. You should avoid any dangerous situation developing by ensuring they are kept out of paws-reach.
- Halloween decorations will look amazing, but if there are wires or clips on show, they can prove tempting to an avid chewer - therefore, be careful with where you place them.
- Loud fireworks can both startle and scare your pet, leaving them distressed, or even running away in more severe cases. You should reduce the noise, and ensure your pet will be as comfortable as possible by closing your windows and curtains, putting on some music or your television, and ensuring they have somewhere suitable to hide. You can consult your local veterinary practice for specific help and advice on making a suitable 'den'.
If you're planning to dress your pet up, make sure you try the costume on in advance, so you can ensure they're comfortable in the costume. If they show signs of distress while wearing it, you should remove it and accept your pet is not looking to participate in the celebrations.
Signs of distress could include:
- Ears back
- Lip licking
- Rubbing against furniture or floor to remove the clothing
- Not behaving normally - ie, being overly quiet or appearing down
It could be that your pet doesn't like a particular element of the outfit and finds it uncomfortable - if you think they look stressed, remove any parts that cover their ears, face, tail and paws to see if that helps.
Safety during Halloween and Bonfire Night
This time of year, games such as 'Knock-a-door-run' and 'Trick or Treat' are to be expected. However, when you open the door, what's waiting could give your pet a fright:
- If your pet's alarmed by people who are dressed up in costumes, put them somewhere safe where there's little chance of escaping through an open door, or worse, hurting the unsuspecting trick or treater.
- Don't leave your cat or dog outside, and ensure smaller pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens are safely away during the festivities. The noise, flashing lights, and regularity of the visitors can be distressing, and they could be in danger of being injured by fireworks or bonfires.
- To be on the safe side, ensure your pet's microchip and collar are up to date. That way, if they do happen to get spooked and run off, they can be safely reunited.
- Remember that signs of stress can appear in unwanted behaviour, including barking and scratching furniture. You should therefore try to calm your pet instead of discipling them, as this will do little to deter them in future.
Natures Menu veterinary nurse Melanie Sainsbury said: "We wanted to highlight the importance of looking after the safety of our pets, not just around Halloween and Bonfire Night but on all occasions. Many of our celebrations pose additional risks to our pets and often they don’t understand the excitement and can find the change upsetting. With food left out and eye-catching decorations that spark curiosity in even the most well-behaved animals, pet parents need to be more cautious than usual."
"All owners want the best for their pet and these tips are a great way to help avoid any distressing situations and spot any problems as soon as they arise."