Halloween pet safety tips from a veterinarian

Leave your pets at home when trick-or-treating, vet says
A veterinarian wants to make sure Halloween is fun for your pet this year, too.

Dr. Jerry Klein, a veterinary advisor with Veterinary PR joined ABC 7 Chicago Saturday to talk about Halloween pet safety.

Chocolate is probably the most common danger pets encounter on Halloween, so it's especially important to keep chocolate out of their reach, he said.

The general rule for chocolate is the darker the chocolate, the greater its toxicity level, and the smaller the dog, the greater the chance for concern.

For example, baking chocolate, bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate, and less has to be ingested to cause greater problems. White chocolate is not toxic at all, though it does contain sugar, which can be a concern, Klein said.

If your cat or dog ingests any chocolate, especially if you have a smaller dog, always contact your veterinarian, a veterinary emergency center or a poison control hotline immediately. They will want to now certain facts -- the approximate weight of your dog, the type and general amount of chocolate ingested and the time it was ingested, if you know. The sooner this problem is addressed, the better the results and the less costly the treatment is likely to be, he said.

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The other concern with chocolate toxicity is the secondary effects of the sugar and butterfat, which can cause severe gastroenteritis or even pancreatitis in dogs days later.

Other candy can also be a problem for pets. Dogs have been known to help themselves to candy, eating the wrappers and all. Candy has a lot of sugar. Sugar-free candy and gum sometimes has an artificial sweetener, xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. The wrappers can also become lodged in the animal's intestines. A quick trip to the veterinarian or emergency animal hospital is often needed after this exposure, he said.

Corncobs, pumpkins and other gourds can fragment if ingested by dogs and then block airways or digestive tracts. Be sure to keep any decorations out of reach.

Other decorations with dangling parts can also be problematic, especially for cats. They like to play with, chew on and swallow string, strings of lights and costume parts.

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Pet Costumes can be lots of fun, but they can also present a danger to pets. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Try costumes on for brief periods for several days prior to when you want your pet to wear it. It's important to get your pet accustomed to wearing clothes.

  • Only use costumes that fasten with Velcro or similar fastenings, no drawstrings or elastic parts.

  • Costumes should not have dangling parts that are easily chewed by the pet.


  • Make certain your pet can breathe easily and move freely in its costume.

  • Never leave your pet unattended in a costume.


  • Human costumes and crowds often frighten even the calmest of dogs. It's best to keep pets indoors during trick-or-treating hours to prevent them from getting spooked. Even at home, it's important to be careful as you answer the door for trick-or-treaters.

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    Either keep pets in a room away from the door, or on a leash held by a responsible adult. It's not unusual for cats and dogs to run out an open door when they are frightened, putting them at risk for being hit by a car or other harm. Make sure your pets have up-to-date tags and microchips so they can quickly be reunited with you if they get out.

    If adults in the household are celebrating Halloween with alcohol or marijuana, be sure to keep these items, including any edibles, out of pets' reach. Alcohol and marijuana are toxic to pets.

    Learn more at VeterinaryPR.com.
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