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Halloween from a Pet's Perspective with Vet Stephen Cahalan

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Halloween can be a very scary time for pets, especially dogs and cats. The unfamiliar noises, sights, and constant streams of trick or treaters ringing the doorbell means that pets can become very distressed. With so many risks involved, Halloween can be a minefield for pet owners. Our vet Stephen Cahalan is here to talk us through the dangers of Halloween from a pets perspective, and give us some tips on how to make Halloween a stress free experience for pets and owners alike.

Stephen Cahalan Biog:
Stephen, originally from county Tipperary qualified from UCD in 2005. Stephen worked in a mixed practice in Drogheda for a year where he developed a keen interest in small animal internal medicine. In 2006, he worked at the University of Sydney, for six months, where he was exposed to the treatment of an array of exotic pets. He has fostered this interest and with Jim Walsh is the practices exotic pet vet. Stephen joined Ark Vetcare in May 2007 and currently lives in Stillorgan with his boxer dog Millie.

Pet Scare #1: Trick or Treaters
Dogs and cats tend to be afraid of unusual things, including children dressed up in Halloween costumes! Masks and costumes can be very frightening and disorientating for pets. When trick or treaters are calling to the door a dog may become agitated and distressed or may bark constantly, as they see strangers approaching their territory.

Tip: Keep your pet in a room away from the front of the house for the night. Distract him with interactive toys, and reward him with praise, treats and toys when he does not react to the doorbell

Pet Scare # 2: Fireworks
Most dogs are terrified by fireworks and other loud noises, and so Halloween can be very stressful for them. If you are outside, the dog may bolt when he is frightened by a very loud noise. Inside many dogs howl and bark, or some cower in a corner quivering with fear.

Tip: Do not comfort your dog, not matter how difficult it may be. By comforting them you are merely reinforcing their fearfulness. Act as though everything is normal, and encourage him to play with toys, or play a game with him. If possible, take him for a walk earlier than usual at a time when there are likely to be less fireworks.

Pet Scare # 3: Halloween Decorations
Many of us like to get into the spirit of Halloween and decorate our homes. However things like electrical toys, battery operated toys, pumpkins and candles can make your home a minefield for curious pets who think they are new toys!
Tip: Hang any decorations high, keep electrical cords out of reach, never leave candles unattended, and never leave batteries lying around, as they are toxic.

Pet Scare # 4: Chocolate and other treats
Chocolate can be toxic for dogs and cats. It can make them vey sick and in extreme cases can be fatal. The colourful wrappers can be tempting for curious pets.

Tip: Keep chocolate out of pets reach, rather than by the front door. Also supervise pets when trick or treaters or other children call as they may want to give the pet a treat. If you suspect a pet has eaten chocolate and it becomes sick, bring it to your vet immediately.

Pet Scare # 5: Pet Costumes
While you may think it looks cute, wearing a Halloween costume can be an uncomfortable experience for pets. If they become spooked by fireworks or loud noises they may bolt, and the costume could become entangled and the pet could suffer serious injuries.

Tip: Don't dress your pet in a costume! Or if you have bought a costume and really want your pet to wear it, dress them up, take a photo, and then take the costume off straight afterwards.
Pet Scare # 6: Mischief Makers
Unfortunately there are malicious people out there who injure or kill animals at Halloween. This is a very dangerous time for animals.

Tip: If you can, keep pets indoors at all times. If a pet is outside keep them in a confined area and supervise at all times. If you are walking your dog make sure to keep him on a leash.