Keoki's Corner | The official blog of Olney-Sandy Spring Veterinary Hospital

Keoki's Corner

10 Steps to a Pet-Friendly Halloween

The doctors and staff at OSSVH want to ensure that Halloween is happy for you and a great experience for your furry family members!  We’ll take you through 10 steps to a happier Halloween through the eyes of your pet:

1.  Don’t let me play a trick and steal your Halloween treats!

There are a few things in that treat bag that can be deadly for me, so keep Halloween goodies high out of reach and in a closed cabinet where I can’t access them.

Ingestion of chocolate can cause signs ranging from vomiting, diarrhea, panting, restlessness and increased urination to more severe problems like an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, coma or even death.  Chemical compounds in cacao called methylxanthines, which include caffeine and theobromine (similar to caffeine), are responsible for these signs.  I don’t metabolize these compounds in the same way as humans do, which is why they are so problematic.  Levels of theobromine are much higher in baking chocolate and dark chocolate, moderate in milk chocolate and lower in white chocolate.  The amount and type of chocolate along with my weight determine how severe my signs can be.  If I ingest chocolate, there are online calculators that can help you to determine the level of danger.  Aside from these chemicals, the amount of fat in chocolate can be upsetting for my digestive system.

Raisins are another potentially dangerous item for me.  About 25 years ago veterinarians began noticing that certain dogs who ate grapes or raisins developed kidney failure.  There are theories, but no one knows why.  The source of the produce didn’t seem to be related, and the amount of grapes or raisins that produce clinical signs is highly variable.  It is best to err on the side of caution and contact OSSVH or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if I get into more than a solitary grape or raisin.


Sugar-free products like chewing gum, candy and some peanut butter can contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol (also referred to as birch sugar).  Xylitol can cause my blood sugar to drop dramatically and can be fatal in as little time as an hour depending on how much I eat and how big I am. Did you know candy corn contains xylitol?

Different flavors of the same brand of sugar-free gum can vary significantly in xylitol content, so it’s important to have as much information as you can to give to poison control.  Xylitol can also cause necrosis of my liver at higher doses.  Kitties do not appear to have this adverse xylitol reaction – only dogs.

2.  Inedible Halloween goodies should also be kept out of my reach!

Items that could potentially become lodged in my intestines and result in an obstruction include candy wrappers and rubber eyeballs.

Although most fake blood and the liquid in glow sticks are considered non-toxic, they have a terrible taste which can result in excessive salivation.  If the contents of a glow stick get on my fur, I will need a bath to remove it.  Me standing next to you with glow-in-the-dark saliva can be very alarming when you’re trying to sleep!


3.  Let me consult on your decorations, please!

Open flames from candles can be hazardous, especially to curious kittens who are more likely to be burned.  Electrical cords can be chewed on, especially by kittens and puppies (if I burn my mouth I may drool and refuse to eat).  My feathered friends can be poisoned by potpourri or scented candles, and my wildlife buddies can become entangled in fake spiderwebs outside.  Motion activated decorations seem to be funny for humans, but we don’t like being scared!



4.  Pumpkins: Friend or Foe?

While pumpkin can make an amazing treat, and many of us would be happy to munch on what you’re cutting away while you carve your jack o’lantern, too much of a good thing can cause an upset stomach.  Don’t let me over-indulge!  Be sure I don’t grab your “lid” when you’re carving, as that woody stem can cause a blockage!  Once those pumpkins have been outside, bacteria and mold start to grow, and those can make me sick.  No more snacking for me once it’s carved.



5.  Please consider my physical & mental well-being before putting me in a costume.

I know I look darn right irresistible when I’m dressed up and that they love me on the interwebs, but please check in to make sure I’m both safe and happy if you put me in a costume.  Costumes should not inhibit my ability to move about freely and should not have any dangling parts that could become entangled or that I might eat.  A poorly fitting costume could twist or spin and quickly become a choking hazard.

Pay attention to my behavior: Am I panting?  Yawning or acting sleepy? Wrinkling up my forehead? Refusing to walk about or take treats?  I’m telling you that I am under stress, and you can see what that looks like HERE.  I might be better suited for a fun collar or bandana.  Am I happy to dance around, take treats and show of my tricks in my costume?  If so, I will probably keep it on long enough for you to photograph my good side!

6.  Consider staying outdoors to distribute candy, weather permitting.

Do new visitors stress me out?  What about baseball hats or puffy jackets? If the UPS person sends me into a tailspin or if certain clothing items say “stranger danger”, then costumed trick-or-treaters and a constantly ringing doorbell won’t be very much fun.  You going outside to greet kids on the porch while I wait safely inside will be much less stressful for me.

7.  The frequently opening door can be a temptation.  

Keeping me away from the front door so I don’t slip outside helps keep me safe.  If I’m not likely to jump or knock it over, a baby gate can be useful for this purpose.  Keeping me in another room away from the door or secure in a crate are other good options.  Indoor/outdoor kitties should be kept inside during Halloween – there can be in increase in scavenging wildlife due to the presence of food, and there can also be pranksters who might unintentionally injure me.

8.  If I am anxious, please make me a sanctuary space to help keep me calm!

Considerations for a sanctuary space should include:

      • Dim lighting
      • Background noise such as a TV or radio.  Consider pet-friendly music such as Through A Dog’s Ear.
      • Calming pheromones can also be helpful.  These come in formulations for dogs and cats, and are available as a collar, diffuser or spray.
      • Calming supplements such as Zylkene, Composure chews, Composure liquidComposure Pro, and Solliquin can be discussed with our support staff to find what is most appropriate for your pet.
      • Some pets with significant anxiety may benefit from anti-anxiety medication prior to Halloween night.  If you think I might may need some support, please contact OSSVH a few days in advance so that they will be able to help me.

9.  Having an adult party?  Keep me away from adult beverages!

Sweet tasting drinks such as pina coladas and daiquiris taste good to me too but I don’t do well with alcohol!

10.  Make sure I have permanent identification, and have my vital information is recorded in advance!

A well-fitted collar and tags with current information can get me back home rapidly, but I also need a microchip in the event my collar comes off (especially with break-away collars in cats).  It is very important to make sure my microchip is registered to you, and that your contact information is current.

Many of the OSSVH staff members have heart-warming stories involving reunions made possible through microchips.  One kitty was reunited with his owner after more than 6 months!  Someone reported to the owner that he had been hit by a car and killed, so she stopped looking for him.  She was overjoyed to find out he was fine!  Contact OSSVH to schedule me for a microchip placement if I don’t have one.

I hope you never need it, but having a computer file with clear photos of me from several angles and a record of any uniquely identifying features can save precious time creating “lost pet” flyers in the event they are needed.  You can find a poster template HERE.


We hope you found this information helpful.  We wish you and your family a safe and happy Halloween!

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