NOTE: This post does not constitute any sort of veterinary or medical advice. If your pets eat chocolate or other possibly toxic substances, please immediately contact your vet or local emergency animal hospital! This post is solely educational and a resource for pet owners to know what to look out for.
Halloween is a spooky, fun time of year, even with the Pacific Northwest’s tendency’s towards rain and darkness. This holiday and some traditions can be traced back to the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, a time that celebrated the fall harvest and when the veils between the spirit world and our world were thinnest. Similarly, Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated around the same time (November 1st and 2nd) that honors the dead with celebrations, food, and drinks! For many people, this time of year, particularly October 31st to November 2nd, isn’t an inherently macabre time because of the association with death. Instead, it can be a celebration of those who have died or a celebration of all things spooky and scary!
Nowadays, Halloween is often celebrated with candy, treats of all kinds, drinks, and decorations. While these celebrations are incredibly fun for humans, they might not be so much fun for pets. Lights, moving or noisy decorations, and even costumes can be overwhelming or frightening for pets. While we know that the moving plastic skeleton is actually fake and simply a decoration, our pets don’t know that! All they see is a new, scary thing that doesn’t act like anything they’ve seen (or remember seeing!).
It’s also important to make sure your pets aren’t eating anything they shouldn’t and Halloween is ripe with treats that seem intriguing but utterly bad for pets. Unfortunately, there are too many types of food, drinks, and even plants that are toxic and possibly fatal for your pets. Because of trick or treating, candy is the one that comes to mind this time of year. Sugar isn’t great for pets but it’s especially important to keep chocolate out of reach. Chocolate contains several methylxanthines, specifically caffeine and theobromine, that are dangerous to animals.
The level of toxicity and potential for illness or death depends largely on how much your pet ate, your pet’s size, and the type of chocolate. An Irish Wolfhound eating a couple of M&Ms might be fine but a Chihuahua eating a piece of dark chocolate could be really serious or fatal. There are ways to calculate chocolate toxicity in dogs but it’s important to still know the symptoms of chocolate toxicity, which can start to happen 1-4 hours after ingestion. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, frequent urination, muscle tremors, seizures, and elevated heartbeat.
In order to have the best Halloween (even with Covid-19 still an ever-present threat), it’s so important to keep an eye on your pet and how they’re feeling. Keeping chocolate, candy, alcoholic drinks, decorations, and other possibly tasty treats out of reach can help prevent illness or even death! And it’s not just how your pet is physically feeling (or what they’re eating). If they’re uncomfortable in their costume, make sure to take it off (no matter how cute they might look).
Ultimately, Halloween can be a fun holiday to celebrate with people and pets alike! Keeping an eye on your pets, both to prevent any treat stealing or to make sure they’re feeling okay, can really help prevent any problems. If your pet is dressing up this year, I’d love to see! Tag me on Instagram (@animalsofpnw) or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any Halloween traditions with your pets? Let me know in the comments!