The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is flooded with calls every Halloween from worried pet owners and from veterinarians who need help. To help you prepare for the big night we've put together two lists—the first one for veterinarians and the second for pet owners—based on our most commonly noted problems. And don't forget to download the posters for fast and easy reference in your facility!
1) Prep for glow stick ingestion. The APCC gets lots of panicked calls around Halloween from people whose pets have ingested the liquid in glow sticks. Typically, a mild and self-limiting taste reaction may be seen. If you have an owner who reports a pet has had multiple taste reactions, try this trick: Take the pet into a dark place (like a closet or a windowless bathroom) and see if they glow (especially around their mouth or neck). You will want to wipe off any spots that glow with a damp cloth to prevent the pet from licking the substance and having another reaction.
2) Prep for chocolate ingestion. Make sure you have your chocolate wheel handy for all of those chocolate calls so that you can make a quick assessment of how large the risk is for the pet. (VIN has a great calculator for in-depth calculations as well.) And be sure to bone up ahead of time on your chocolate toxicity smarts!
3) Ask the right questions. Many times, obtaining a good history will be the most important thing you can do. Always make sure that you get as much information as possible. For example, if dealing with chocolate ingestion find out all the details: Was it filled? Is any sugar-free? Is there a percentage of cocoa listed on the package? How many ounces or pieces are missing?
4) Watch for emesis. Timely emesis is often key to preventing significant signs in asymptomatic pets with chocolate toxicosis. Dogs will often vomit a large percentage of the chocolate ingested, and we will avoid seeing significant signs in pets who have ingested mild to moderate doses of chocolate.
5) Test sedatives in advance. Some pets may need a sedative to cope with all the monsters coming to their doors. Make sure your clients know they should ask for instructions well in advance, and it is always a good idea to do a trial run before the big night to see how a pet will react to a sedative. Don't wait until Halloween night to test a new medication.
Top Halloween Tips for Pet Owners
Share these safety tips on social media and have them at your front desk for reference by staff.
1) Lock candy safely away. Kids love to stash candy in their rooms, but a dog's keen sense of smell will lead him to even the most cleverly hidden treasure. Contact a veterinary professional right away if your pet does get into Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or is sugar-free and contains xylitol.
2) Don't leave glow sticks lying around. Glow sticks are used to help keep kids safe while they are out in the dark. Pets (especially cats) find these glow sticks to be a lot of fun as well, and we commonly get calls about pets puncturing the sticks. While most of them are labeled as non-toxic, they do have an extremely bitter taste and we will often see pets who bite into them drooling and racing around the house. A little treat or sip of milk will usually stop the taste reaction.
3) Keep your pet identified and visible. There are a lot of extra people on the streets at Halloween, and that combined with strange costumes can spook pets and cause them to bolt. If you take your pet out after dark, make sure he or she wears a reflective collar and is securely leashed. And make sure your pet has proper identification on the collar.
4) Calm your pet. Even pets who are kept indoors may experience intense anxiety over the large number of strangely dressed visitors. Keeping your pet away from trick-or-treaters may do the trick, but if you think more will be needed be sure and speak with your vet well in advance about options to help calm your pet.
5) Check those costumes. Costumes can be fun for the whole family. If you are planning on dressing up your best bud, ensure that the costume fits well and isn't going to slip and tangle the pet or cause a choking hazard if chewed on. Never leave a costumed pet unattended.