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Posted on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Halloween costumes, decorations and candy all pose safety risk for pets; follow these tips to keep them safe

By Lorrie Shaw

For weeks, aisles have been lined with Halloween candy, decorations, costumes and the like. It's a fun time of year, and, in most households, things are looking and feeling a bit more festive. Pets have a natural curiosity, and are attracted to all things Halloween, At times it can get them into trouble!

It's important to remember that the things that we humans view as fun can be especially frightening to pets. Costumes, faces painted with make-up and life-sized decorations can startle pets and cause them to behave unpredictably, so introducing Halloween to any pet with mindfulness and a slow pace is important.

By keeping a few things in mind, you can keep your furry friends safe and keep the fun going this time of year.

Additionally, the days preceding and following Halloween often yield sillly pranks — and some are not-so-playful. In fact, they can be cruel, particularly towards pets, and especially black cats. Don't leave pets outside and unattended during this period.

One of the most common activities, carving pumpkins, is a long-held tradition for adults and kids alike. Keep jack-o-lanterns that are lit with candles away from all pets.

  • Strings of lights are popular these days in both indoor and outdoor displays during Halloween. Be sure to always keep cords and wires bundled and out of reach — or use a deterrent like Boundary. Watch for decorative plastic pieces that cover the lights. These can look especially inviting to pets, much like their chew toys. Artificial spiders and spiderwebs are enticing, too. Consider them carefully before using.
  • With oodles of trick-or-treaters ringing your doorbell, it can be a difficult time for some pets to manage. The noise, the costumes and little ones can be disconcerting for pets. Avoid problems like anxiety and excessive barking by giving your pet a safe, cordoned-off area to stay in during this time. Try a spare room with white noise or a radio playing to buffer the sound at the door. (Cats can easily slip out of an open door in these situations, too!)
  • Halloween candy is particularly inviting to pets — some even have penchant for the sweet stuff! Take special care when there is candy around to keep it locked up and away from pets, perhaps in an upper cupboard with a door on it. Dogs and cats are very crafty and can reach countertops, tables and stovetops. Chocolate is toxic to animals, as it contains a component called theobromine.

    Also, xylitol, a sugar substitute found in sugarless gums, candies and other sweet treats poses a special threat to dogs: it's absorbed rapidly into their bloodstream, where it stimulates the release of a large amount of insulin, which in turn causes extreme hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to liver failure and even death. Use special care with packs of gum in your purse or in your car's console.

    Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 if you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance. (You can also download their iPhone app. Click here to learn more.

  • Candy wrappers can be a special problem. Foil and cellophane can be fun for pets to play with, but can pose serious tummy issues, even a blockage.
  • Does your pet like the activity that Halloween brings? Bandanas are a suitable, simple way to have a pet look festive. For the truly adventuresome, it's fun for pets to dress up in made-for-them costumes. But, be sure that they fit properly, that your pet can breathe in the costume and that movement isn't impeded. Consider giving the costume a trial run before the festivities begin to ensure your pet really feels comfortable and that there is no risk of allergy.

    Avoiding costumes that have small pieces that could be pulled off and choked on is a must, especially for those curious young canines. Some pets are not fond of playing dress up, as evidenced by this video that's made its rounds recently. If you look closely, the video of this cat is not all that it appears.

  • Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.