Howl-o-ween: VERG’s Halloween Pet Safety Tips
With Halloween quickly approaching, veterinarians from the Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group South (VERG) animal hospital in Brooklyn are making pet owners aware of the looming threats and harmful situations that may affect their pet during the holiday season, including candy, unfamiliar strangers and dangerous decorations.
While Halloween candy is the highlight of many people’s Halloween experience, it can prove fatal if left unattended and ingested by a family pet. Candy containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can be extremely dangerous for both cats and dogs.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in pets include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with hypoglycemia — the sudden lowering of your animal’s blood sugar. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include becoming lethargic, staggering and lack of coordination, collapse, seizures and occasionally liver failure resulting in death.
“If you believe your pet has ingested any candy containing xylitol, take them to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital right away,” said Dr. Brett Levitzke, chief medical officer of VERG. “Because symptoms of hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not develop for up to 24 hours, your animal may need to be hospitalized and monitored just to be safe.”
Many pet owners are familiar with the dangers associated with chocolate, especially in dogs and cats. Chocolate contains ingredients, including theobromine and caffeine, that can speed up an animal’s heart rate and stimulate their nervous system. There are various factors that are taken into account to determine the severity of the situation when an animal ingests chocolate, including the type and amount of chocolate consumed, as well as the weight of your animal.
Once your pet ingests chocolate, the signs and symptoms of toxicity typically appear within 6-12 hours of them eating it and may last up to 72 hours. Signs and symptoms of chocolate toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea, restlessness, elevated heart rate, tremors, seizures and collapsing. It’s also important to note that older animals with heart conditions are more susceptible to sudden death from chocolate than younger animals.
While Halloween candy is a serious risk to animals, Levitzke is also asking pet owners to take precautions if they are expecting trick-or-treaters throughout the evening. According to a study from the Center For Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. Halloween is a night when the chances of an attack is higher than usual. Levitzke advises pet parents to keep their pets in a controlled, safe area to avoid any harmful situations.
When opening and closing a door for costumed strangers, pet owners should be aware of the significant increase of risk that a family pet may escape and run away. Pet owners are encouraged to make sure their pets are always wearing proper identification tags and are microchipped with up-to-date information.
According to Pet WebMD, only 15-20 percent of dogs and less than 2 percent of cats are ever reclaimed by their owners. One way to increase the chances of finding a lost pet is having it microchipped, making it easier to contact the owner right away if an animal is brought into a shelter.
Lastly, pet owners should also beware of Halloween decorations that can also pose a serious threat. Candles, electric cords and festive Jack-o-lanterns should be kept in areas out of reach of pets to avoid any mishaps or accidents.
“As a pet owner, you understand your animal’s behavior and habits better than anyone,” said Levitzke. “Take the necessary precautions to ensure you and your pet have a safe Halloween season.”
About Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group:
Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group (VERG) was formed in 2005 by Dr. Brett Levitzke to provide emergency services and specialty medicine to the Brooklyn community. Open 24-hours, seven days a week, VERG’s team of emergency doctors, specialty doctors, technicians and assistants are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care within a nurturing environment. Their services include cardiology, critical care, dermatology, emergency care, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, radiology and more.