Trick or Treat: Protect Your Pet From 5 Halloween Emergencies

Halloween hijinks are all in good fun, until your sick or injured pet needs to be admitted to Madison Veterinary Emergency. Every October our skilled veterinary care team handles truly scary situations—including pets with toxin ingestion, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal obstructions, and who have been hit by a car. To help you avoid these Halloween heartaches, here’s a guide to turning common Halloween tricks (i.e., unfortunate situations) into treats.

Trick: Your pet ingests harmful candy and needs emergency care

Like most pet owners, dogs and cats can’t resist candy’s sweet smell and colorful packaging and often find themselves in a literal bind. Candy-related hazards include:

  • Toxicity — Chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, and xylitol (i.e., a natural sweetener found in sugar-free candy and snacks) are toxic to pets. Although cats are less likely to ingest these ingredients in harmful quantities, all candy should be stored out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion. 
  • Pancreatitis and gastroenteritis — Sugary, salty, or high-fat foods are a holiday guilty pleasure for pet owners, but a miserable and dangerous misadventure for pets. These rich foods can trigger painful inflammatory reactions, vomiting, and diarrhea, and your pet will require hospitalized care. 
  • Choking — Pets can accidentally or intentionally swallow candy packaging, including foil, plastic, string, and sticks, and choke. 
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction — Pets who don’t choke on candy packaging may still experience an emergency if wrappers, string, and other items become lodged in the intestines and create a life-threatening obstruction that requires surgical removal.

If your pet has ingested a toxic ingredient, don’t wait for visible illness signs—immediately contact Madison Veterinary Emergency for instructions.

Treat: Your candy is stored in closed containers and kept out of your pet’s reach

Don’t simply expect your pet to “Be good”set them up for success by preventing access to your home’s candy stash. This includes ensuring that:

  • Candy is stored in lidded containers instead of open candy dishes or buckets
  • Filled containers are placed on high shelves
  • Children are instructed to sort and store candy in a central location (i.e., not their bedroom)
  • Trash cans are kept behind a barrier (e.g., door or pet gate)

Trick: Your pet darts out the front door as you greet trick-or-treaters

What starts out as curiosity can quickly turn to terror as social pets discover what lurks on the other side of the door. Unfortunately, many pet owners underestimate their pet’s fear and stress on Halloween, sometimes with tragic consequences. 

Treat: Your pet rests in a quiet and safe area during the holiday hijinks

The Madison Veterinary Emergency team understands the temptation to include your pet in every holiday activity, but Halloween can be an unfriendly pet festivity, so you should prepare a secure, quiet place where your pet can avoid the stress and anxiety of a constantly ringing doorbell, scary costumes, and loud sounds. You should also provide:

  • Exercise Exercise and feed your pet in the late afternoon or early evening before the fun begins.
  • Food distractions Provide positive distractions, such as a xylitol-free peanut butter-filled Kong, food dispensing toy, or a lickable treat mat. 
  • Pheromones Install a pheromone diffuser (e.g., Feliway or Adaptil) to promote calm and security.
  • White noise — Leave on the television or radio to drown out the festivities.

Trick: Your pet’s costume is too large, and they trip on the fabric, panic, and fall 

Pet costumes are cute, but an improper fit is more than a fashion faux “paw.” Pets can trip on or become tangled in oversized costumes and flowy capes. Tight costumes can restrict breathing and movement. Pets can chew and swallow small decorations such as buttons, snaps, and belts.

Treat: You check your pet’s costume for proper fit and remove potential hazards

Try on your pet’s costume several days before the big reveal. Check for a proper fit without any hanging fabric or tightness. Remove any small baubles or decorations that your pet may consider treats or toys. Let your pet move around in their costume to ensure they can walk, sit, and lie down without discomfort. Finally, watch your pet for stress signs—if you notice them panting excessively, drooling, displaying a whale eye (i.e., visible white of the eye), refusing to move, or attempting to remove the costume, let them go au naturel.

Trick: Your curious pet can’t resist your Halloween decorations, and burn their paw pads  or ingest a toxin

Indoor Halloween decorations certainly set a spooky mood, but the fear becomes real when curious pets cannot resist these harmful items. The most common Halloween decorations associated with pet emergencies include:

  • Candles — Burned paws, whiskers, and accidental fires
  • Essential oils and liquid potpourri — Many essential oils are extremely toxic to pets. Inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin can lead to respiratory problems, severe illness, and liver failure in cats. 
  • String lights — Pets may chew on the cord or bulbs, resulting in electrical shock or painful lacerations.
  • Small figurines and gourds — Your pet may chew on or consume these toy-like items whole, resulting in a dangerous intestinal blockage.

Treat: You decorate using pet-safe decorations or restrict your pet’s access to decorated areas

Explore pet-safe alternatives, such as battery-powered candles and lights, pet-friendly essential oils, and small-item displays in cabinets or elevated surfaces. Always supervise your pet around any home decor or use a pet gate to prevent them from accessing decorated rooms or areas. 

These extra precautions will treat your pet to a safe and happy Halloween. However, should your best laid plans go “Boo,” Madison Veterinary Emergency is always available to handle all your pet’s urgent and critical care needs.

Unsure if your pet’s condition requires emergency care? Never hesitate to contact us.