Halloween and Pets: More Trick Than Treat?

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An award-winning animal care author provides tips for Halloween pet safety.

Halloween is fraught with unexpected dangers for dogs and cats. Jan Rasmusen, author of “Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care,“ offers seven tips on how to protect your pets from ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night:

1) Check Out Costumes

Some dogs (and a few cats) enjoy playing dress-up, but many others are devout nudists. Remember: fun for you can be misery for your pet. If you do play dress-up, ensure that fabrics are fire-retardant, non-toxic and free of anything the pet can chew off and swallow. Even a pompom can prove deadly when lodged in the throat or intestines. Make certain, too, that costumes are comfortable, don’t chafe, and won’t obstruct vision or cause your animal to panic and run.

2) No Candy for Fido and Fluffy!

Secure Trick-or-Treat bowls of candy out of the reach of pets, and don’t allow pets near kids picking through Halloween bounty spread out on the floor. Chocolate, treats sweetened with Xylitol and even grapes, raisins and apple seeds can be toxic—even deadly. And too much sugar is as harmful to pets as it is for kids. If an accidental poisoning occurs, contact your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center at http://www.ASPCA.org or (888) 426-4435.

3) Prevent Runaways

While you’re handing out goodies, your cat or dog can dart out the door and become injured or lost. Secure all pets carefully before festivities begin. Since clever animals may escape despite your best efforts, get them a microchip or tattoo and current tags. For added safety, engrave tags with a cell phone number and the word “Reward” instead of the pet’s name.

4) Watch Out for Pranksters

Leave nervous and aggressive pets at home, and bring “outside pets” indoors to prevent mayhem and theft. Carousing demons may enjoy painting your cat black or mummy-wrapping your dog, and your tormented or injured pet may bite back (hello lawsuit!) or dash into the street and under the wheels of a passing car.

5) Outshine the Dark

If Fido tags along for Trick-or-Treat fun, make him easily visible with a dog-safe light or strobe or reflective tape attached to his collar. Better yet, try a reflective vest. Find a good selection at http://www.sitstay.com.

6) Beware Deadly Decorations

Candles, even inside a pumpkin, can attract a curious pet and cause burns or painful wax spills. Be especially wary if your dog or cat plays lookout at the window near a lit Jack O’Lantern. Also beware decorations that may prove toxic or scary. Those fake spider webs can be especially dangerous if swallowed.

7) Outsmart Stress

Scary sights and sounds, and strangers at your door, can stress out any pet. Take the edge off with a few drops of a calming flower essence (like Bach’s Rescue Remedy) from your health food store. Better yet, check out Stress Stopper, a product developed for animals by a renowned holistic veterinarian. Find it at http://www.spiritessence.com.

Make Halloween safe and fun for your dog or cat by anticipating and outwitting danger. Whether the festivities are a trick or a treat for your pets, and by extension for your whole family, is largely up to you and the steps you take before and after the fun begins.

Jan Rasmusen is the author of "Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care," 2006 Winner of the Ben Franklin Award for the Best Health Book of any kind in the country and 2006 Winner of the USABookNews Best Animal/Pet Health Book. For additional information, other articles on canine health and safety and a fun FREE tips newsletter, visit http://www.Dogs4Dogs.com. Note: Signed books and quantity discounts are available for gift giving.

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