You may love Halloween tricks and treats, but your furry friend most likely needs extra oversight during the celebration.
Dr. Canaan Shores, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees dogs and cats through the hospital’s urgent and convenient care service at its Veterinary Medicine South Clinic, 2100 S. Goodwin, Urbana. He answers questions pet owners may have about how to prevent or respond to close encounters of the scary kind.
What are the most common Halloween hazards you see?
“Ingestion of several types of candy can definitely pose a hazard to pets,” says Dr. Shores. “The most common would be exposure to chocolate, which can cause neurologic signs, cardiac signs, or gastrointestinal signs, based on the type of chocolate and amount ingested.
“In general, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic. Cocoa powder and baking chocolate are the most toxic.
“Other candy-related concerns include xylitol, a sweetener found in some ‘sugar-free’ candy products, and excessive fat intake, especially from eating large amounts of chocolate.
“The final type of toxicity worth mentioning is raisin ingestion, which can cause severe kidney disease.”
What is a common Halloween hazard that is not candy?
“A big concern associated with Halloween is behavioral problems with pets,” he says. “With strangers—and bizarrely dressed strangers at that!—frequently coming to the door, there is an increased risk of bites and scratches. There is also the risk of pets escaping from a home and running away.”
How can owners best protect their animals from these hazards?
“You can minimize pets’ exposure to candy by keeping the candies in a sealed container out of reach of the pet. Because of the various toxicity risks, it’s best to avoid offering any type of candy to pets. Instead treat your pet to a product made for dogs or cats.
“To prevent some of the behavioral hazards, I advise limiting a pet’s exposure to strangers and frequently opened doors,” continues Dr. Shores. “Keep your pet in a different part of the house, behind closed doors.
How does the most common hazard wreak havoc on our dogs?
“At high doses, chocolate can cause disease of the nervous system, such as seizures. At lower doses, the cardiovascular system can be affected, leading to a very high heart rate and/or blood pressure,” explains Dr. Shores.
• National Pet Wellness Month is the perfect time to provide our pets with the attention they require, including scheduling their annual veterinarian visit. Most of us have adopted them as members of our family, and it’s only natural we treat them as we would our human relatives.
Just like humans need vaccines, dental care, bloodwork, and regular checkups with their doctors, our pets need veterinary wellness visits every six months to a year.
Your pet’s veterinarian is trained to detect the subtle clues that can indicate a problem or illness, like changes in breathing, heart rate and vision, and even minor swellings. These clues could be signs of something more serious or life-threatening, and it’s always better to take a preventative approach with your veterinarian who knows your pet’s health history.
The wellness visit is also important to make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccines, especially for rabies protection, and infectious bacterial diseases like leptospirosis and those that cause respiratory infections.
• According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs are considered overweight or obese. With extra weight comes several health problems and concerns that can shorten a dog’s life.
The Association states that overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from arthritis, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, and cancer.
How can you prevent your dog from gaining weight or being overweight? Surgical Veterinarian and Mobile Veterinary Surgical Services Owner, Jennifer Hoch, said first check on your pet by feeling their ribs.
She said you should feel an hourglass shape and while you don’t want the ribs poking out, you should be able to feel the ribs.
If you can’t feel the ribs, your dog might be overweight. She said it’s best to check with your vet.
Either way, Hoch said there are two things you need to be attentive to, your pets’ activity level and food consumption.
“If you have a pet that’s getting regular activity, then that’s not just going to make their body healthy, but it also stimulates their mind and it will also improve their behavior at home,” said Hoch. “They are going to be less destructive and they’re going to be engaged in other things, so it makes them a better well-rounded pet at home.”
Hoch said she does surgery on pets every day, many of which are ACL repairs, and a majority of the surgeries are from the overuse of muscles or overweight pets.
She said regular, low-impact exercises, like leash walking, swimming, playing fetch, or going to the park will do. The fresh air will do you and your pet some good.
She said active play like throwing a ball, stick, or frisbee for your pet to retrieve is a great way to get them moving.
Hoch said don’t wait all week to get them moving and then over-do-it on the weekends with a big hike or long walk.
Adding in walks and playtime during the week will help them be ready for big hikes and long walks on the weekends. She said if they are not used to being active, they can over-exert themselves, which can cause injuries.
If you do take them out for a bigger exercise event, Hoch said to be sure and keep an eye on them as they are working out. If they want to stop, lay down, or are slowing down or limping, it’s time to wrap up the exercise.
“Some people don’t have the availability maybe with their schedule, or have physical limitations, to take their pets out, so there are also other ideas like rehab facilities, underwater treadmills and there are actually people in town that have mobile dog gyms that they can come to you and exercise their pets in air condition for you,” she said. “There are lots of different things that should fit anyone’s lifestyle.”