Halloween Hazards and Your Pets

With Halloween quickly approaching, Dr. Joe from the Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital emergency department has some important reminders for us pet owners. He notes that when the end of October rolls around, PVH begins to see quite a large number of chocolate toxicity cases. Here are some reminders for keeping your pets safe on Halloween. 
Chocolate is a year-round hazard, but most people do more baking (and indulging!) around the holidays, starting with Halloween. In our pets, chocolate desserts, including hot cocoa, and candies can cause hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhea, and death in severe cases. In case of chocolate ingestion, inform your veterinarian of how much your pet weighs, and how much chocolate (in ounces) and what kind (dark, milk, etc.) was ingested. White chocolate does not contain the toxic substance, but semisweet, milk and dark chocolate do. Note: This is usually more of a problem in dogs because they are less discriminatory than cats are in what they eat. However, if you have that unusual cat that eats chocolate, the same risk applies.

Macadamia Nuts
Also beware of macadamia nuts, which sometimes come wrapped in chocolate. Macadamia nuts are a neurotoxin for dogs. Unless a huge amount is ingested, the effects of macadamia nuts are usually temporary, but the pet does often require a hospital stay and supportive care.

If you are trying to stave off your own sweet tooth with sugarless gum or mints, be sure your furry friend doesn’t get a hold of any item containing xylitol. Used as a sugar substitute in many products, xylitol has a delayed liver effect (sometimes a week or two post-exposure) but also a more acute problem: causing life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to seizures and death.

Safe Treating
We know that some (most?) of you don’t want to leave your animal companions out of the Halloween fun. So we thought we would let you know some treats that are OK to offer.

First of all, the important thing about treats is that they are TREATS, not a substitute for a meal. Most commercial pet foods are nutritionally complete. Anything we add to our pets’ diet is going to throw them off this nutritionally balanced diet. Quite a bit of research goes into commercial diets.
Portion size is key for treats. A rough rule of thumb that can be applied to portion size for a treat is this: A treat should be roughly one-fourth the size of your pet’s mouth. So, a treat for a Great Dane would be a meal for a Chihuahua. Remember this is a treat, not a meal.
If your pet has a sensitive stomach, then try to avoid treats or just change the presentation. My pets think that their regular diet is a great treat if I throw them one kibble at a time while watching TV (vs. just putting it in their regular food bowl).
Other treats that are considered safe include:
• Boiled rice
• Raw carrots
• Popcorn (unbuttered)
• Small pieces of lean, boneless meat that has been boiled or baked (avoid fried foods)
In Case of Ingestion
If you have concerns that your animal has been exposed to a toxin, call your pet’s veterinarian, or the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435, immediately! Your pet has the best chance of surviving a poison if treated as soon as possible.

Further Reading
According to Pet Poison Helpline, the four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers. Also be careful with glow sticks, costumes and candles. Learn more here: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/seasons/halloween/

PVH is open 24/7 for emergency care: 360.568.9111

Article updated October 26, 2013.