Halloween is filled with goblins, ghosts, ghouls, and lots of sweets and scares. While we are all familiar with this tradition, many of our pets are not aware of this trickery. While out and about trick-or-treating and canvassing the neighborhood for candy, here are a couple things to consider.
Chocolate and other toxicities - Chocolate is more than prevalent at this time of year, rivaled only by Valentines Day and perhaps Christmas. Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine, which can be toxic to dogs if ingested in high enough quantities. Theobromine is a compound found in the cacao bean, and thus dark chocolate will contain more of it than milk chocolate. White chocolate does not contain any cacao, and is thus not chocolate - albeit still full of sugar. Chocolate toxicity can cause hyperexcitability, tachycardia (increased heart rate), hyper-responsiveness, and seizures. If you know that chocolate ingestion has occurred, try to estimate how much chocolate was ingested and contact your veterinarian to let them know. If it is a concerning amount, inducing vomiting and administering a dose of activated charcoal is recommended immediately. The high fat content of chocolate can also trigger pancreatitis in some animals, a painful condition which causes vomiting and anorexia. If absorption of the chocolate is known, IV fluid therapy and supportive care is recommended.
Xylitol is an artifical sweetener used in sugar free gums, toothpaste, and numerous other products. While not toxic to us, it is toxic to dogs and can cause severe hypoglycemia and seizures. If you suspect xylitol ingestion, inducing vomiting, IV fluid therapy, and monitoring blood glucose levels is recommended. Contact your veterinarian immediately if this is suspected.
Anxiety - If we can get scared by all the costumes and festivities of Halloween, so can our pets. And they don't expect or understand it either. Animals can react to unfamiliar and uncertain scenarios in several different ways, including cowering, hiding, shivering, whining, or even aggression. While not all animals are affected, if you know your pet has anxiety or doesn't do well with unfamiliar faces or places, consider keeping your pet away from all the activities. Dog or cat pheromones are available and can sometimes help keep an animal calm. Some animals may need a dose or two of anti-anxiety medication to take the edge off as well. This is a conversation best had with your veterinarian to determine what is the best method to approach this issue.