Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fall and Halloween Pet Safety Recommendations for Cat and Dog Owners in Pittsburgh, PA

 As the air cools and the leaves change, take some time out of your day to think about (and plan ahead for) the various fall season and Halloween safety hazards your four-legged family member might encounter in the days or weeks ahead. One of the things we take pride in is being able to help pet owners in various ways, even if we can’t be there in person to offer guidance. Consult the fall and Halloween pet safety tips we’ve provided below so you, your pet(s), and the rest of your family can enjoy autumn and its holidays with peace of mind.

For more tips and advice from our team of professionals, call Always Compassionate Veterinary Care at (412) 882-3070.

Things that Make Fall a Little Bit Dangerous for Our Beloved Pets

While fall weather may not be as extreme as that of summer or winter, it can still put your pet at risk! Here’s how.

Rapid Weather Changes and Cold Temperatures

Autumn’s mild beginning eventually gives way to rain, cold, and wind. While some pets have coats that can protect them from these elements, many others do not, and can be at risk for hypothermia. We recommend that all dogs and cats, regardless of their thick coats, remain indoors as much as possible on days of inclement weather. If for any reason your pet needs to be kept outdoors for a time, be sure to get them a dry, comfortable shelter that protects against the elements, and make sure they have the food and water they need, too, and check in on them whenever you can.

Symptoms of Pet Hypothermia

Pay close attention to your pet’s appearance and behavior after you bring them inside and dry them off. Do they continue to shiver and shake? Do they seem confused, lethargic, and unresponsive? These could be signs of hypothermia. Make sure your pet is kept warm and contact your veterinarian or emergency vet immediately. Treating hypothermia in dogs and cats often requires more than just wrapping them in a blanket, and we want to make sure they are safely out of harm’s way.

Keep Antifreeze Out of Your Pet’s Reach

Antifreeze is a highly toxic substance that can make animals and humans extremely ill if ingested. Ethylene glycol is the compound that gives antifreeze its significant toxicity, and, together with antifreeze’s sweet smell and taste, is a recipe for danger. 

If or when you plan to add more antifreeze to your vehicle, do so cautiously and check for spills on the floor and/or ground so your curious pet won’t be tempted to get a taste. Seal your antifreeze container tightly and keep it stored in a place your pet won’t be able to reach. If you have any concerns or questions about antifreeze toxicity, you can call us or get in touch with the Pet Poison Helpline (a $59 consultation fee may apply) at (855) 764-7661.

Halloween Pet Safety

Halloween is usually all about wholesome, spooky fun, but some risks (particularly to your pet) are very real and should be prevented as much as possible. Read on!

Candy and Other Sweets

It just wouldn’t be Halloween without candy, caramel apples, and all kinds of other tasty sweets. But if your pet gets their paws on them, they could get very sick! Always keep candy and other treats stored well out of your pet’s reach, and don’t leave any loose pieces sitting around. Clean up wrappers and, if necessary, keep the trash in the garage so your pet won’t be able to rummage through it.

Here are some of the more common and hazardous treats for pets:

  • Hard candy - Hard candy is a choking hazard for pets, but it can also contain xylitol, which can be deadly if ingested.
  • Xylitol - Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in all kinds of sweets, including cookies, sugar-free gum, hard and soft candy, and more. Be very, very careful about where you store these goods and always keep an eye on your pet.
  • Chocolate - Any kind of chocolate is liable to make your pet sick, but the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Higher cocoa content and caffeine can cause heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors, and possibly seizures.
  • Grapes and raisins - They may be tasty snacks for humans, but grapes/raisins are not easily metabolized in dogs and cats, who can suffer from severe kidney issues (and possibly kidney failure) if they partake.
  • Candy wrappers/sticks - While these are not technically treats, these pesky leavings usually end up littered on the tables, chairs, and occasionally the floor after the kids have returned from a successful night of trick-or-treating. If swallowed, this detritus can cause choking and possibly bowel obstruction, which can have serious consequences for your pet. Never forget to clear away the trash!

Use Halloween Decorations Cautiously

Most pets generally leave the Halloween decorations alone, but whether or not they are prone to getting into trouble, some holiday staples can be more of a hassle--and a health risk. Be especially mindful about these items:

  • Candles - Keeping a candle (or several) when you have a pet is always a risk. Eliminate fire hazards by getting artificial candles and lanterns instead. They’ll give your home that same cozy fall feel, but with more peace of mind!
  • Electrical cords for lights - If you plan to decorate with strands of lights, hang them up high where your pet can’t reach, invest in electrical cord covers to discourage chewing, or forego them altogether just in case.
  • Essential oils and potpourri - Pumpkin, cinnamon, and wood smoke. The scents of fall give your home that extra layer of ambience, but certain scents (and their conduits) can be unsafe around dogs and cats if ingested or inhaled. Make sure the scents are not too strong, and keep the potpourri, oils, and/or incense sticks out of your pet’s reach.
  • Fake spiderweb - Fake spiderweb can be a pain to put up, and more of a pain to take down later. What’s more, it can be a choking hazard if your pet decides to eat some, and it can be harmful to wildlife such as bats and birds if it’s used outside.
  • Small plastic pieces - Plastic pieces of decorations and costumes are another choking or bowel obstruction risk. Window/mirror decals, those plastic spider rings, buttons, and other easy-to- swallow (but not so easy to digest) parts can be a big problem.

Protecting Escape Artist Pets

Some dogs and cats can’t resist the call of freedom. When they see a door ajar, they go for it. Other pets, however, may bolt due to anxiety. Whatever the reason, it’s common for pets to escape and get lost around or on Halloween, when front doors are frequently opened to greet trick-or-treaters. 

For pet-owning households, we recommend keeping your pet leashed or having a family member hold onto them when the trick-or-treaters come calling. If necessary, you can keep your pet in a closed off room with some toys and treats, or use baby gates to keep them away from the foyer. 

Additionally, it’s important to be prepared in case your pet does get lost. Make sure their ID tags are up to date, and we’d suggest getting them microchipped, too. 

Finally, both dogs and cats should be kept indoors if possible on Halloween night, especially if you live in a well-populated area. Some people like to target animals for pranks, especially black cats, and we want your fur babies to be safe. Let them stay inside with you, where we think they’d be much happier.