Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween pet safety tips and the hazards of chocolate

from the Petco newsletter

The Chilling Effects of Chocolate

Halloween. Children are let loose on the streets of their respective towns and cities in quest of their favorite tooth-decaying treasures. It's a night of sweets, treats, tricks, and scary costumes - everything strange and fascinating. Add your dog to the equation and you may have a truly frightening situation.

The possessor of a highly refined nose, a bottomless stomach and a well-practiced talent for ferreting out contraband delights, your dog is practically a Halloween time bomb waiting to go off. However, since he positively aches to be part of everything you do, how can you lock him safely out of harm's way? How can you turn him down when he begs for just that little piece of chocolate?

The good news is that you don't have to. Distraction works as well for dogs as it does for children, and by taking some preventive measures, you can head problems off before they make you both unhappy.

Choc-A-Holics Anonymous

Your first step on the road to a happier Halloween is to assume that a bowl of candy next to the door will not remain safely out of reach. Dogs are infamous for their love of sweets, and the word "dogged" doesn't do justice to the persistence of a dog in quest of food.

Chocolate, containing theobromine, is the most dangerous culprit, and can be deadly. A toxic dose for a 15- to 20-pound dog is between 8 and 12 squares of milk chocolate, or 1-1/2 ounces of baking chocolate. As a rule, remember that the darker the chocolate, the more concentrated it is - and the smaller the lethal dose.

Take these protective measures to avoid poisoning your pooch:

Dog proof your candy bowl in between trips to the door. Use a sealable container rather than an open bowl, and keep it behind a closed door or under supervision.

Prepare or purchase special dog treats so your dog can share in the fun. Stock up on pseudo-chocolate treats made with carob, biscuits, meat strips or anything else that your dog (and his friends) may particularly enjoy. Just remember not to let him overindulge!

Talk to the children, adults and guests in your household and explain how dangerous treats are to your pet. If your children are too young to be responsible, take over their candy supply and put it somewhere safe.

Caution children about leaving candy wrappers on the floor. These are a choking hazard, because your dog may try to eat them for the lingering taste of the treat.

Watch for the following symptoms of chocolate poisoning:

Excessive drooling
Excessive urination
Pupil dilation
Rapid heartbeat
Vomiting and diarrhea
Muscle tremors and seizures

If you catch your dog mid-raid, induce vomiting immediately. If he displays some symptoms but you haven't seen him eat any chocolate, contact a veterinarian immediately: this is a life-threatening situation.

Verrrrry Scarrrrry!

Unfortunately, chocolate isn't the only Halloween hazard. Masks, decorations and a constant barrage of strangers at the door can make even the most easygoing dog a little nervous. And a nervous dog is more likely to react in a dangerous way. Here's what you can do to make your Halloween a little less frightening.

If your dog has a history of aggression, fear of loud noises, or a habit of excessive barking, place him in a quiet room as far away from your front door as possible at least a half-hour before the first trick-or-treaters are due. Crate him if he feels more comfortable - this will also reduce chances of accidental escapes - and put in some toys, his favorite blanket, a piece of clothing with your scent on it, or whatever usually comforts him. Play soft music or a recording of soothing sounds. If he is very high-strung, the most humane thing to do may be to tranquilize him for the night. Always consult your vet before attempting to tranquilize your pet.

If your children are planning to dress up for Halloween, have them do a few dress runs with your dog watching, then talk to him and pet him so that he can get accustomed to their new, strange appearance. From a dog's perspective, masks, makeup, and costumes can be very frightening.

Keep jack-o-lanterns, open flames, and all Halloween decorations out of reach of your dog's probing muzzle. Keep in mind your dog's curious nature and tendency to chew and explore; many Halloween decorations are toxic, while others are potential choking or strangulation hazards.

Keep your pet indoors. Outside, he's vulnerable to any stray fireworks or malicious pranks that may fall his way.

Place a dog gate in front of your front door to block your pet's access in case someone inadvertently opens the door to the room where your pet is confined. Many dogs will run after trick-or-treaters. Also, in case the unthinkable happens and your dog does escape, ensure that he has an ID tag with your name and address on his collar.

Trick-or-Treating Pal

If your dog is well-trained and easygoing, you may decide to let him accompany your children on their trick-or-treat routes. If so, make sure that he is leashed and wearing an ID tag. The reflective type will do double duty, making your pet more visible to cars as well as providing an address to return him to. Glow-in-the-dark collars will add to nighttime visibility as well, and make your dog easier to spot if he escapes.

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