While a black cat may be an iconic symbol of Halloween, should your clients’ black (or otherwise colored) cat be a part of the Halloween celebration? Probably not. Believe it or not, Halloween isn’t the safest holiday for pets, but it’s not the ghosts and goblins that you have to worry about. It’s the three C’s—candy, costumes, and company. Before trick-or-treaters start arriving on their doorsteps, make sure your clients are prepared to keep their pets safe this Halloween season.
It’s not uncommon for pet parents to want to get their critters in on the Halloween festivities. After all, there’s nothing cuter than a dog wearing sneakers and a baseball cap or a cat in a tutu. Sometimes that cuteness comes at a price, such as a visit to the emergency vet when Fido eats one of those sneakers or Fluffy streaks out the door with the fourth round of trick-or-treaters. You can quickly and easily educate your clients on how to avoid a Halloween trick.
Candy Is Not So Sweet
Most pet parents are aware of the risks of chocolate and dogs, but that’s not the only candy culprit they need to watch out for; there’s xylitol, gum, choking hazards, and wrappers just to name a few. There’s never an occasion when a furry one should have candy, so remind your pet parents to keep the bowl of Halloween treats well out of reach of probing noses. If they’re worried about their pets getting the jealousy factor, suggest they give them healthy snacks like green beans, carrots, or canned pumpkin in place of candy.
On the pumpkin note, while a little canned pumpkin can work wonders on the digestive tract, moldy, half rotten jack-o-lanterns won’t. There’s also the fire risk if a pet overturns a lit jack-o-lantern, so it’s best if those are kept out of their pet’s reach as well. You may want to remind them of your local emergency clinic’s phone number or the Animal Poison Control Center hotline.
Finally, if your clients are having a Halloween party, there’s always the risk of their dogs or cats getting into spilled food or drinks; or their guests, especially kids, sharing with them. It may be best to keep their pets off the invite list and in a safer spot during those Monster Bashes.
Create Costumes Carefully
While no great Halloween picture is complete without a dog in a Freddie Krueger mask, for most pets, the length of a quick photo session is all the longer that they will tolerate said costume. After that it can quickly become torn off, chewed up, or entangled. Remind pet parents that animals should never be in costume unattended, especially cats. Most of us are aware of cats’ propensity to chew strings and what’s a cat luau skirt but a bunch of strings?
Annoyance factor aside, some pets may be downright scared of their Halloween costume causing unnecessary stress that can bring other behavioral disorders to the surface. Do you think your client’s five minutes of amusement at their Pomeranian looking like a Chia Pet is worth the price of their now shredded couch or the lifelong prescription of anti-anxiety medication for their furry friend?
Costuming their house could be another area of concern for clients. While fake cobwebs give off a spooky vibe, to Fluffy they may look like fun, causing kitty to become entangled. Strings of lights can also be an electrocution issue, and that motion-activated cackling witch may have Rover refusing to come out from under the bed for the entire month of October.
Critters Can’t Stand Company
So your clients have consented to leaving their dog and cat out of the costume contest and have assured you that Halloween candy is not on their dinner menu, but have they thought about the impact that their party guests or even the trick-or-treaters are going to have on their furry fam? Let’s start with dogs; while most dogs take the more-the-merrier approach to company, the constant ringing of the doorbell may send them into barking overdrive. You may find yourself needing both hands to keep them from excitedly mauling all of the cute little cowboys and ballerinas that knock at your door. Others may get overly anxious and come off as more threatening than playful. Unless their pup is oblivious to the comings and goings of people at their front door, you might advise them to keep Fido in a back bedroom somewhere where they can quietly chew a treat-filled toy or snooze until the excitement is over.
Kitties are a different Halloween issue all together. Most cats prefer the company of their family and their family only. They might be okay with the occasional dinner guest, but a constant parade of costumed children on Halloween night is definitely out. Rather than becoming aggressive or annoying, cat parents need to be concerned about Fluffy making a break for it every time the door is opened, or about how they’re going to peel Prince off of the drapes in their bedroom once the night is over.
The sheer number of visitors that your clients may have on Halloween night isn’t where this worry list ends, let’s talk about how different these costumed people are going to seem to doggy and kitty minds alike. While some Halloween costumes are meant to be cute, others are meant to be scary. Those scary ones become even more so if you don’t understand them. To humans, someone dressed as the devil carries its own creepy factor, but consider how an animal mind comprehends that visual. It’s enough to elicit some raised hackles and a deep, throaty growl for sure, let alone breeding some distrust with anyone that those critters encounter from that day on that appear to be wearing horns (watch out girls with ponytails!).
What Can You Do?
As a veterinarian, none of this information may be new, but it’s up to you to pass it on to your clients. Remind them that Halloween probably isn’t their critters’ favorite holiday and to be mindful of how the things they do affects their pets. Halloween is also a good time to have the identification talk with clients. If their pet hasn’t been microchipped, consider offering an October special; two-for-one for example. Sturdy ID tags are another option. You wouldn’t want any of your patients to go missing or become endangered on Halloween because of a lack of oversight on your part or the part of your client.
Halloween can still be a fun holiday for both people and pets. While a look-like-your-pet contest isn’t out all together, just remind your clients to use caution around their pets when it comes to costumes, decorations, and candy. They might also consider boarding their beloved critter for the night or at least keeping them in a quieter area of the house in order to calm nerves, save the furniture, and prevent any escapes. Pet parents might not come to these conclusions alone, so be sure to give them some helpful advice to protect your patients, clients, and the spirit of Halloween.