Friday, October 10, 2008

Halloween Can Be a Scary Holiday ... for Pets

PRNewswire/ -- Ghosts and goblins walk the streets, approaching homes collecting treats. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions people about keeping their pets safe and preventing dog bite injuries this Halloween. http://www.avma.org/.

While some dogs may understand that costumes and excited children are all part of the holiday fun, many dogs are fearful of common Halloween activities. This creates an increased potential for dog bites.

"Dogs believe they are the guardians of their homes, and they can feel threatened if a stranger enters their space," explains Dr. James O. Cook, president of the AVMA. "If your dog is apprehensive in these situations, you need to be sensitive to that and make preparations before Halloween to keep your dog -- and all the little neighborhood ghosts and goblins-safe."

Dr. Cook explains that costumes can be very confusing for dogs and this can cause them to react in ways that they might not otherwise. For example, some dogs will bark in alarm or show signs of aggression even when an owner or friend puts on a mask or costume.

"What's important is that you be responsive to your dog and prepare ahead of time for the holiday," he says. "If your dog gets nervous when the doorbell rings, put the dog in a place where it will feel safe. This could be inside a crate with a favorite toy or treat, or inside a familiar room with the door closed. This will make the dog feel safer and calmer."

"If your dog appears to be excessively stressed, look to your veterinarian for help," Dr. Cook adds.

Dog bite injuries and stress are not the only hazards for dogs and their owners on Halloween; candy is another common Halloween problem. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, and so is xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many chewing gums. Make sure you store Halloween candy where your dog cannot reach it, because most pets will eat it if given the opportunity.

"Children tend to want to share their treats with their pets, and the dog is all too happy to oblige," Dr. Cook explains. "Warn your children beforehand that table scraps are unhealthy for pets, and that candy can be deadly."

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