Halloween Hazards

For children, Halloween is a long anticipated holiday featuring parties, costumes and above all, candy. Adults celebrate the holiday too, by decorating their homes and yards with ghosts, goblins and jack o’lanterns. But as you can see by the photo above of my cat, Cheetah costumed as Minnie Mouse, pets don’t enjoy Halloween.

Trick or treaters constantly ringing the doorbell can make an anxious pet even more so. When the treats are passed out at the front door, they may try to escape the commotion, slipping outside unnoticed. I recommend confining your cat or dog in its crate or one room of the house while you receive trick or treaters to prevent your pet from being one of the estimated 3-4 million pets entering shelters annually. Only 25% of these pets are reunited with their families. If confining your pet is not possible, double check their collar and ID tags and if they don’t have a microchip get one to help your pet come home if it succeeds in escaping while you dole out the treats.

Halloween food presents another risk for your pets, particularly dogs. Dogs can have quite a sweet tooth and will devour the entire contents of a goodie bag, but cats are too finicky to be tempted by sweets. Just like with children who over indulge on Halloween, too many treats will cause an upset stomach, or worse, vomiting and diarrhea. So keep the cauldron of treats out of reach of your dog.

Feasting on two specific sweets may end in a scary visit to the veterinary emergency room – chocolate, especially dark chocolate and xylitol. Chocolate contains a substance related to caffeine and the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine like substance it contains. Small dogs that eat chocolate are especially at risk for developing vomiting, diarrhea, an elevated heart rate and hyperexcitability. Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener in some diet foods, gum and mints. It is safe for humans, but lethal for dogs who develop low blood sugar, seizures and liver problems. If your pet eats something other than their usual fare on Halloween, don’t hesitate to call Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 to find out if you should head to the Animal ER. They take calls 24/7.

When pets are around, jack o’lanterns can be risky. Pumpkin is appealing to some dogs and cats, but that is not the problem. It is the candle inside. Pet hair can easily cat on fire if a nosy or hungry pet decides to investigate the jack o’lantern. Better to use a battery operated flickering light, which will be safer for everyone.

And if you want to see some really cute pets ready for trick or treating, check out WebMD or The AMC Facebook page.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.
For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

32 Responses to Halloween Hazards

  1. Nice post !! Whether it’s Halloween or not, pet safety should always be in our minds.The feeling for anyone getting lost is pretty scary !!

  2. For those who mentioned 4th of July, please take a look at our blog about fireworks hazards here: https://amcny.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/fireworks-and-your-dog/. We’ve also blogged about Labor Day hazards: https://amcny.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/labor-day-is-no-picnic-for-your-pet/


  3. Thank you all for your comments and compliments. We hope you continue to enjoy our posts!
    Happy Halloween!

  4. sixthirtythree says:

    Great post idea!

  5. foodvixennyc says:

    I love this post!!!!!!!! Period. 🙂

  6. perfectperfectionist says:

    I love your post, it can never hurt to raise awareness about animal safety in the holidays.

  7. everythingneat says:

    Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    It’s always great to have a reminder about pet safety at Hallowe’en. Thank you.

  8. Dog says:

    Cute cat.

  9. Lisa Hellen says:

    Great article!!
    I’m going to repost this on PAWS

    Thank you!

  10. […] For children, Halloween is a long anticipated holiday featuring parties, costumes and above all, candy. Adults celebrate the holiday too, by decorating their homes and yards with ghosts, goblins and jack o'lanterns. But as you can see by the photo above of my cat, Cheetah costumed as Minnie Mouse, pets don't enjoy Halloween. Trick or treaters constantly ringing the doorbell can make an anxious pet even more so. When the treats are passed out at t … Read More […]

  11. rochedumont says:

    I can relate to this. One time I left brownies out on the counter – dog got up and ate them while I was out. What a mess that turned out to be. Dog turned out to be OK, but it could have been very bad.

    Thanksgiving also can be hard on dogs. No potato skins and no turkey skins for the pup.

    As far as Xylitol – heck I am a nervous basketcase after chewing a piece of gum or drinking a soda with the stuff – I can imagine being a 30 pound dog.

  12. Luckily my cat hides in the closet at the slightest commotion. Although I would like to dress him as a magician…

  13. rubiescorner says:

    This is very informative. I like the picture of your cat. It looks all decked out.

  14. Well said and oh so true. I feel this post will help many people over Halloween. For a bit of fun I posted a story on graveyards. Thanks for sharing.

  15. helpb0yz says:

    Re: Halloween Hazards,
    Thanks for the fine information. It is true that pets HATE this “holiday.” They also HATE New Years Eve and the 4th of July! Our animals owe you a healthy paw shake and friendly lick.

  16. The cat in that picture is PISSED!

  17. starwarskid1983 says:

    LOL so awesome!

  18. planejaner says:

    I feel so badly for animals–Halloween and 4th of July…my dog suffers from OCD and separation anxiety…we always turn off all our lights and kennel him with the radio on so he doesn’t stress out…but, it’s still tough. I just wrote a post about him and all the medical/psychological difficulties he’s been going through, if you have the time and are interested–I’d love to hear your take!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!



  19. […] Think about how all those scary children and adults appear to your pet pal… read more. […]

  20. jscottg says:

    Good advice. I know my cats are defective, but I feel I should point out that they WILL eat anything they see us eating. This includes sweets. And they love to chew on plastic wrappers.

  21. tayia says:

    i think that that is really funny!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  22. Tiffany Hope says:

    Well, kids will be kids. What do they know? Even worse, their parents support them. They think pets are cute to play with. I guess it’s okay to dress your cats and dogs, just don’t over do it.

  23. Excellent post! What with all the excitement of the holiday, people might not consider what their pets are going through.

  24. Thanks for the reminder. And let’s not forget the people who have nothing better to do than cause mischief on halloween – and may target the cats roaming the neighborhood. If you have a pet cat, it is best to keep them inside on that night (or all the time)

  25. Sunflowerdiva says:

    Great warning; a few of these things didn’t occur to me until I read this! Thankfully, though, I have a rabbit, not a cat or a dog, so I don’t think he’s going to be hopping up onto tables sniffing out the pumpkin, nor nosing around the door. He’s quite a timid bunny when it comes to strangers, and we keep him in his cage whenever we’re not around or there’s company.

    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed–and happy early Halloween!

  26. travelingmad says:

    Aww I love cats and dogs.

    Great post. I’m sure people will read this and be more cautious for their pets.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  27. Never would have thought about the dangers inherent to jack-o-lantern candles and pet hair … thank you for the reminder! 🙂

  28. archiegrrl says:

    We had an outdoor black cat growing up, and always kept her inside over Halloween to ensure no one decided to hurt her or use her as part of a “trick.” I’m not sure if that was a realistic concern or not, but we always worried about her!

  29. Modern Funk says:

    Poor kitty. 😦

  30. Dan Wade says:

    Very informative blog. Thank you. We don’t have this sized problem in the UK due to Halloween not being an overly large holiday for us. We have more of a problem on and around 5th November with Guy Fawkes night and the fireworks going off, scarring pets and bonfires literally cooking hedghogs and other animals that curl up under a nice bundle of wood.

    Thank you for clarifying the whole dog & chocolate thing. Always been a query I’ve had.


  31. Great tips. Since we live out in the country, we don’t really have trick-or-treaters. But we do have candy, just in case, you know 🙂

  32. runtobefit says:

    I don’t know…the cat looks pretty comfortable with those ears. I would venture to say it enjoys the costume.

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