When I think of Halloween, two things come to mind, costumes and candy. Sounds great right? Well, maybe not for our four legged friends. This holiday can present potential hazards for our dogs if we are not careful. Costumes are fun for us humans, but can often be scary for our dogs. Capes, masks, hats, and props, combined with children who are often running and yelling can be overwhelming. It is important to consider your dog’s personality and socialization when deciding to expose them to costume parades, or trick or treating. For puppies or dogs who are new to your household, you are better off waiting to expose them to these things in a more controlled environment. For established dogs, use past information to determine how they might react. Do they normally have a fear of strangers, children, or new situations? Do they react negatively to people wearing hats, hoods, carrying umbrellas, or bags? If you determine that your dog will not be delighted by the goblins and ghouls at your door, provide them with a safe and relaxing area during trick-or-treating hours, such as a crate or out of the way room.
If you do decide to bring your dog trick or treating or to a costume parade, make sure that you are reading their body language and looking for signs that they are uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Some signs of fear can be more subtle than others.
Candy presents another hazard for dogs. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because of a compound called Theobromine and can result in serious side effects and even death. Toxicity is based on the type and amount of chocolate consumed and the body weight of the dog. (See chart at bottom of article). Bakers chocolate contains the highest quantity of theobromine, followed by semisweet, dark chocolate, then milk chocolate. The toxic amount of Theobromine is listed as 100-150mg/kg, but it is important to remember that sensitivity to Theobromine can vary between individuals. If you think that your dog has ingested ANY type of chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately. Xylitol, a sweetener found in some candy and gum, is also toxic to dogs. Make sure to keep all candy out of the reach of your furry friend.
CHOCOLATE TOXICITY CHART
Using a dose of 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose of Theobromine it comes out roughly as:
1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker's chocolate.
If you are considering dressing your pet up in costume, make sure that your pet will find this enjoyable too. Look for signs of stress from your dog, when they are wearing the costume. Costumes should not restrict movement, or the dog's vision in any way. Be careful that there are no loose or dangling parts to the costume that the dog can get tangled up in and never leave your pet unattended while wearing a costume.
Following these precautions will ensure that everyone has fun filled and enjoyable holiday.