In this month’s edition of Teddy Talks, I wanted to review some Halloween safety tips for all the pets out there. Halloween has long been one of my favorite holidays. Over the years I have accrued quite a menagerie of costumes ranging from spooky to hilarious to downright degrading. Although Halloween is a festive and joyous holiday, it can be a dangerous one for me and my furry friends. I wanted to highlight a few specific areas of concern to help make this Halloween a fun and safe occasion for all.
Chocolate has long been a candy cornerstone of Halloween. I am partial to Twix, Snickers, Butterfingers, and virtually every other candy bar made by the M&M Mars corporation, but these wonderful treats are toxic to pets (damn your deliciousness!).
Chocolate contains a toxic compound called theobromine. This tantalizing toxin can cause a range of clinical signs in dogs and cats including vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and in extreme cases, seizures or coma. There are a variety of different chocolates out there each containing varying amounts of theobromine with unsweetened baking and dark chocolate containing the most and white chocolate containing the least.
Despite what your furry family members may tell you with their loving eyes and shoestring drool, do not be fooled! No chocolate is safe for pets. If your pet does happen to get into chocolate, they should be evaluated by your veterinarian at Central Texas Cat Hospital post-haste!
When treated early, most clinical signs of chocolate toxicity can be avoided; however, hospitalized care is sometimes required if vomiting is severe or if a pet has already developed a rapid heart rate or arrhythmia. Fortunately, in the hands of the caring professionals at CTCH, the prognosis for chocolate toxicity is very good.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in chewing gum, candies, toothpastes, and baked goods. I once tried to go on a diet prior to understanding the inherent risks of sugar substitutes, and I almost perished. Due to my near-death experience, I have sworn off dieting in order to be able to provide readers with my words of caution and hopefully make a positive impact on your pet’s lives. Xylitol ingestion can cause a profound hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and can damage your pet’s liver.
If left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause an altered mentation, vomiting, diarrhea, unsteadiness on the feet, seizures, and even (gulp) death. Any pet who has potentially ingested a sugar free product containing xylitol should be evaluated at SBVW immediately. If treated early, the prognosis for xylitol toxicity is quite good, but hospitalization may be required to monitor blood sugars and liver values as well as to provide supportive care to get your pet through the repercussions of bad choices.
Foreign Body Ingestion
One thing all candies have in common is that they come packaged in wonderfully eye-catching candy wrappers. Although pleasing to the eye, candy wrappers can potentially cause a blockage in our small gastrointestinal tracts. I for one have always lacked proper manners when a piece of candy happens to present itself before me, and I am also a firm believer of waste not, want not.
Instead of carefully unwrapping each delicious treasure, I tend to ingest the whole thing, wrapper included, in a rather unsightly, ravenous fashion. Signs of GI obstruction can include vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, and lethargy among others. Pets who have ingested foreign bodies can sometimes be treated conservatively with supportive care including anti-nausea medications and IV fluids to maintain hydration while the indigestible material passes through; however, surgery is sometimes required to remove the obstruction.
GI obstruction can potentially be fatal if left untreated as the intestinal lining can become devitalized leading to perforation of the GI tract. Perforation of the GI tract can then lead to a rather dreadful condition called septic peritonitis, or massive infection of the abdominal cavity that is quite serious.
If you are concerned that your pet has ingested a foreign body, please bring him or her to my friends at SBVW x-rays to determine whether or not your pet may have a GI obstruction.
Not all Halloween risks are associated with ingesting deliciousness. An often-overlooked danger during the Halloween season is anxiety. Some of my furry friends tend to be wound up a little tight, which can be exacerbated during Halloween. Doorbells ringing, children in a myriad of costumes laughing, and humans constantly moving into and out of houses can create a perfect storm for anxiety attacks. Since we are unable to convey our complex emotional states to our human family members, we are prone to fits of anxiety that may cause us to act aggressive to people or other pets, develop gastrointestinal signs of illness such as vomiting or diarrhea, and even erratic behavior that may predispose us to running away or even worse, being hit by one of those hideous rolling metal boxes you call “cars”.
If your pet has a history of anxious behavior, you may want to consider secluding them away in a calm, quiet room to avoid the festive noises and chicanery that go hand in hand with Halloween fun. Some pets may even benefit from sedatives to prevent self-inflicted injury. Have a discussion with your veterinarian at SBVW to discuss the best options for your anxious pets to ensure they have a fun, safe Halloween this year.
In summary, we as loving pets cannot trust ourselves to make rational decisions that promote our own safety and longevity.
The nature of the human animal bond is a mutually beneficial relationship – you give us food, shelter, and prevent us from harming ourselves while we allow you to live in our presence with occasional demonstrations of affection.
If left to our own devices, Halloween would likely be the leading cause of illness in our pet population so please do your due diligence and protect us from ourselves to ensure everyone has a safe Halloween this year.
As always, all fan mail and dietary contributions can be delivered to me in person. You can find me in the lobby or attempting to steal rations from patients boarding at our wonderful facility.