Unfortunately, this holiday can be an unexpected safety hazard for dogs if we’re not diligent about keeping them from harm.
Here’s a checklist of things to keep watch of.
- Chocolate is a very real danger to dogs. Even relatively small amounts can do damage. Theobromine is the ingredient in chocolate that’s poisonous to dogs; it’s related to caffeine, and can present a number of symptoms including hyperactivity, muscle tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and increased urine output. Unfortunately, the outcome for many dogs who ingest large amounts of chocolate is death. The darker the chocolate, the more poisonous it is to dogs. Therefore, baker’s chocolate is the worst for dogs, while milk chocolate contains the least amount of theobromine.
Should you worry if your dog eats just one M&M? Not if he’s a Great Dane. But if he’s a Chihuahua, call your vet immediately! The usual course of treatment is to administer a vomit-inducing agent if your dog ate the chocolate within the previous two hours; after that, activated charcoal is usually given to your dog to help absorb any of the chocolate remaining in his digestive system. To try to cut down on damage to his heart, intravenous solutions may be administered.
On a busy Halloween night, candy may be left around waiting for trick-or-treaters, and your kids will surely come home with a bag full of goodies, so the potential for chocolate poisoning is high. Kids need to be taught never to give their dogs candy, particularly chocolate, and the goodies they bring home need to be put away where your dog can’t reach them. As always, have your vet’s emergency phone number taped near the phone. Even if you have a big dog, don’t assume a small candy bar won’t be dangerous — you need to immediately inform your vet so she can decide the appropriate protocol.
- Does your dog like to make a run for it when the front door is opened? Even a very well-trained dog can become stressed during Halloween trick-or-treat time, with all the commotion, new people to meet, and interesting activity in the streets. Please be sure your dog is safe, comfortable in his crate and occupied with stuffed Kongs, and teach your dog to go to bed when the doorbell rings for all the other days of the year! Haven’t yet microchipped your dog? Oops – make sure he at least has an ID tag on his collar, just in case!
- Watch out for jack-o’-lanterns, electrical cords and decorations.
- Keep your dog in the house. Your dog may be too tempted to dig under a fence or wall to get to all the fun stuff going on!
- Dogs are territorial. Anyone approaching and ringing the bell can be seen as a potential threat to your dog. Unless he’s very well socialized and used to this kind of commotion, as well as very reliable when given a command, it’s best for everyone if your dog is taken out of the picture, crated as described above, or kept in a bedroom with someone who’s watching TV. Don’t leave your dog alone; his stress level will go up if there’s no one around for him to interact with. Play games or have a training session; just don’t be passive, allowing stress to build up because of the noise and “intrusions.”
- If you have a puppy, take him or her with you and walk around where the kids are, allowing lots of interaction but being oh-so-careful no candy is grabbed from the goodie bags! This is a perfect opportunity to introduce new things to your puppy, including weird costumes and small children. Get really happy when you approach a kid in a silly costume, so your puppy sees it as a good thing, rather than potentially scary. Bring treats with you to give your dog, and let people feed him treats, too. You can also have your puppy on the porch with you, if he’s on leash. Be sure to have doggie treats with you that the kids can feed him. Forego the potentially distracting dog Halloween costume for young dogs, and focus on socialization!