It’s Halloween time, the annual trick-or-treating spookfest with delicious chocolate rewards. But this holiday has some potential dangers for your dog, so I spoke with Charlotte-based veterinarian Joy Fine to learn more. She shared some fascinating examples from what she’s seen, heard and learned during her many years of working with dogs as a professional vet. So read on to learn ways to protect your furry friend on Halloween…
Five Halloween Tips for Dog Owners:
1. Prevent potential escapes. Each time the doorbell rings with another excited, costumed trick-or-treater, remember your pooch could easily escape from the house, leading to a lost dog or car injury. “I find it helpful to keep dogs on a leash, behind a childgate, or in a separate room when I’m opening the door for trick or treaters,” says vet Joy.
2. Identify your dog. Ensure that your pet is wearing a collar with current and legible ID tags. Should your pooch slip out the door, an ID tag will help ensure he will be returned home. But even better are identifying microchips, tiny implantations injected beneath the dog’s skin. (Read our previous Nat Geo Dogs blog post to learn all about microchipping your dog). Joy adds that “It’s very important to remember to update the microchip information as needed,” such as the animal’s current vet, medical additions or allergies.
3. Know the toxins. Lots of snacks and candies distributed around Halloween time are poisonous to dogs. Raisins and grapes will cause kidney failure. Xylitol toxicity (an artificial sweetener) has two ways it can cause death in dogs. Joy expalins that “soon after eating xylitol, there is a spike in the release of insulin in dogs which causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and this can cause brain death. Symptoms of hypoglycemia can range from acting sluggish and dull to seizures. If the dog survives hypoglycemia, then they may still develop liver failure… And as with most toxicities, symptoms might not appear until it is too late to remove the poison from your dog’s body. Xylitol toxicity damage can start as little as 30 minutes after ingestion, while the other foods take an hour to several hours depending on your dog’s weight, digestive system, and how much food is already in your dog’s stomach.”
4. Store away chocolates. Perhaps the most famous of all food toxicities for dogs, chocolates contain two ingredients poisonous to dogs: caffeine and theobromide. “They both increase central nervous system activity, heart activity, and blood pressure,” explains Joy. “The first signs of toxicity are often a change in mentation or attitude such as being restless and anxious… this is usually followed by seizures, which is very serious with this form of poisoning. Luckily many dogs will get an upset stomach from eating too much chocolate and will vomit what they have consumed. While looking at vomit is unpleasant, it is important to make sure that all of the chocolate you suspect your pet has consumed is present in the vomit… If you are missing 6 dark chocolate candy bars and your dog only vomits 3 wrappers and partially eaten chocolate bars, your dog will still need qualified veterinary staff to induce vomiting to remove the rest of the chocolate bars.”
5. Keep your vet’s information handy. If an emergency strikes with your pet, you may not have a lot of time. Prepare for this busy holiday season by entering your veterinarian’s current emergency contact information into your cell phone (and even post on the fridge!) so you’re not scrambling during a crisis. If you think your dog has eaten a poisonous food, veterinarian Joy warns that “you need to induce vomiting within an hour on ingestion BEFORE any symptoms occur and call your veterinarian. As it can be difficult to tell if everything your dog ate was vomited before the body could digest the poisonous item, your veterinarian may need to keep your dog in the hospital for additional care. If you are lucky enough to have several dogs and do not know which one ate the chocolate, sugarless gum, raisins, etc, treat all suspect dogs… You may not get a second chance.”
Learn more ways to keep your dog healthy on the Nat Geo DOGS blog and head to the forums to meet and greet with other canine owners!