Halloween 3: Trick or Treaters – The Ultimate Hazard

Today is Halloween. They’re coming. As the sun goes down, hordes of princesses, aliens, vampires, werewolves, and ghosts will be ringing your doorbell in search of bags of candy.

It’s like the perfect storm of factors to drive a pet insane. Think about – ringing doorbells, little fists pounding on doors, dozens of oddly dressed strangers traipsing across your property, lots of shouting and giggling, flashlight beams, cars pulling in and out of the driveway, you hopping up to open the door every few minutes. And that’s in addition to the decorations, bowls of candy, and other assorted hazards.

Even the friendliest pets can get overwrought in these circumstances. And overwrought pets don’t behave like they usually do. A normally calm and obedient pet may growl, lunge, or bite, or even slip past you and dash off into the darkness.

Your best bet is to confine pets away from the front door. Lock them in the bedroom for the evening for their own safety. I don’t recommend putting them out in the back yard, because they’ll still hear all the extra people roaming the neighborhood, and still see all the waving flashlights. Shelters will tell you that the morning after any major holiday finds extra animals coming in, and lots of distraught owners searching for escaped pets that got out of “safe” back yards.

If you have an “unconfinable” pet who gets distraught when locked up, then keep the pet with you – on a leash. If there are two people in the house, have one hold the pet and one answer the door. Remember that dogs are naturally inclined to defend their homes from invaders, and shrieking, giggling, masked people waving bags of candy and shouting “Trick or Treat!” would certainly strike any self-respecting dog as exceptionally weird intruders to be dealt with.

Make it a Happy Halloween…protect your pets. Don’t expose them to all the excessive stimuli of Halloween, both for the safety of the kids and the safety of your pet.

Halloween Hazards Part Two

People food is not the only hazard to our pets at Halloween. Decorations, costumes, and related gadgets are another potential source of problems.

Take fake spiderwebs, for example. Really. Take them far, far away, because I don’t like them. And a curious puppy or a nosy cat could ingest spider webbing, which could block up their intestines with catastrophic results. Such a blockage almost always requires major surgery to fix.

Other hazardous decorations are those with wires, such as the figures with wire-stiffened flexible limbs or wings. Candles, of course, are a fire hazard, especially in the presence of a wagging tail. Many pets end up with burned paws or whiskers from candles or even from playing with battery-operated or plug-in decorations that got too hot. Moving or noise-making decorations – like the ever-popular hand that emits a scream and grabs your hand when you reach into the bowl – are an invitation for pets to pounce.

Costumes are another source of danger. Potential problems are the elastic straps on masks, an excess of sequins or glitter, glued on decorations, fishnet tights. Elastic or tights can entangle a pet or block up an intestinal tract. Sequins or glitter can have sharp edges to damage or at least seriously irritate a dog’s digestive system, while glue may or may not be toxic.

Another potential toxic hazard involves anything that lights up, especially by chemical rather than mechanical means. Think glowsticks, luminescent paint, those annoying bracelets and necklaces that glow in the dark. They contain chemical gels that produce the luminescence. If an animal bites into or chews on them, he can get that toxic gel into his mouth or eyes.

And then there are the pet costumes. Seriously? While pet costumes produce some hilarious photos, I stand with the contingent that believes most pets are mortified by being decked out as a walking pumpkin or short furry superhero.

Aside from the embarrassment of pets forced to parade around in Batman and Robin suits, the actual costume can be dangerous to your pet. If your pet gets loose while wearing the costume, he could catch it on a fence or branch and become stuck, even to the point of losing circulation in a limb. He could hang the collar of his miniature cape on a branch and injure his neck or even strangle himself. Tight elastic can also constrict blood flow, which at the very least is uncomfortable. Chewing on the costume could cause illness, vomiting, intestinal blockage, or injury to the pet’s mouth. If you simply must dress your pet, don’t leave him unsupervised.

Please take the time to “child-proof” your home so that your pet will be safe this holiday weekend. Stay tuned for Part 3…coming to you on Sunday!

Halloween Hazards: Protecting Your Pet

Halloween is not my favorite holiday. Okay, I love the candy. But I don’t love the trick or treaters…especially the ones that are clearly over 30. And I don’t love all the hazards to our pets, or the accompanying superstitious nonsense that makes this holiday especially dangerous to certain pets.

Did you know that many shelters refuse to allow anyone to adopt a black animal, especially a black cat, for a week or so before Halloween? It’s hard enough to find homes for black animals, because many people feel that black cats are unlucky and black dogs are aggressive or just unattractive. In fact, at other times of the year, shelters run incentive programs to encourage the adoption of black animals because their rate of successful placement is generally lower than that of other animals. But at Halloween, black animals are even more out of luck than usual. Adoptions are often prohibited, because animal welfare workers are afraid that that black animals might be used to some kind of ritual sacrifice or for some other perverted purpose.

And then there are the hazards to our personal pets. Candy and other Halloween treats can be extremely hazardous to our pets.

For most of us, Halloween equals candy. For homes with younger children, it equals large quantities of candy. First, candy in general is bad for pets. As we all know, chocolate is toxic to dogs, due to the presence of theobromide. A theobromide reaction can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys, and even the dog’s central nervous system. The darker the chocolate (meaning the higher the cocoa content), the more toxic the reaction can be. Milk chocolate is much less dangerous than gourmet dark chocolate. But plenty of other candy components are dangerous, as well.

Raisins (and any other products made from grapes, including wine) can produce a terrible toxic reaction in dogs resulting in kidney failure. For those of you who prefer your grapes in the form of adult beverages, alcohol of any kind is toxic to dogs. It can drop the dog’s body temperature to the point of hypothermia, and it also depresses the dog’s respiratory system, in addition to all the symptoms of drunkenness in humans.

Macadamia nuts cause a severe reaction. Symptoms include drunken behavior, joint paint and swelling, and severe vomiting. It only takes a small amount to make a dog terribly sick. Veterinarians have not been able to isolate the chemical cause of the reaction, but its existence is well-documented.

Xylitol is a particularly nasty hazard for those of you who try to make Halloween healthier by handing out sugar-free treats. (And frankly, you sugar-free types shouldn’t wonder why your homes are more likely to get egged on Halloween.) Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is often found in sugar-free gum or candy. If, for example, your dog eats a pack of sugar-free gum, your dog can end up with permanent liver damage. Xylitol is absorbed very quickly, and can cause seizures, drunken behavior, and acute hypoglycemia due to extreme insulin production. It requires IMMEDIATE treatment.

Many, many people foods are extremely toxic to pets. These are just a few of the ones more likely to pop up in your home on a holiday.

Do your pet a favor. Even the seasonings we use when we cook meat for humans can make a pet sick. Make it a general rule to keep the people food for the people, unless it’s something definitively safe like small amounts of plain chicken, beef, turkey, maybe a plain scrambled egg, or a little cheese.

My Dog Is Spoiled…So?

My mom just sent me one of those internet gems about how dogs are better than kids (duh!) because they cost less, require less effort, don’t need expensive clothes and cars, don’t want to go to college, and so forth.

I started thinking…

My dog has: a chiropractor, prescription food, his own personal crock pot for the chicken that goes in his prescription food, a car seat, a personalized blankie, a set of combs and brushes, at least one bed in every room of the house, a babysitter, and his own medicine cabinet. His picture is on my wall, my Facebook profile, and my phone.

Mom’s dogs have: a dermatologist, special food, medication, an elevated car seat, a playpen, a babysitter, more toys than I can count, and a wardrobe most Barbies would envy (including a number of matching outfits). Their artist-drawn portrait hangs on the wall in the living room.

Then I started laughing…and I have to admit it. My dog is spoiled. (But Mom’s dogs are more spoiled. Really. They are.)

We plan our schedules around the dogs. Vacation times are chosen based on the availability of dogsitters. Our homes are childproofed – for the safety of the dogs. People who visit our homes are expected to accommodate the peculiarities of the dogs…and they damn well better think the dogs are as cute and adorable as we think they are.

I figure that all dogs deserve to be loved and spoiled, and Bumble more so than most, since he was rescued from abuse and abandonment. And now I have to go…Bumble just woke up and wants his breakfast.

Confession time, dear readers. How spoiled is your dog?

Chiropractic for the DOG?!

People usually look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m taking Bumble to the chiropractor.

Let me explain a little bit about Bumble’s condition; it is treatable, but not curable. His hip sockets are too large for the ball of the bones that should sit snugly in them, so his hips are weak and easily misaligned. He has one vertebra less than he should, and he has elbow dysplasia. He’s blind in one eye due to an injury before he came to live with me; he is also epileptic, quite possibly due to that same injury.

When Bumble suffered a serious seizure that instantly crippled him, we went for x-rays; Dr. Romero showed me the out of place vertebra compressing his spinal nerves on the x-rays and sent us straight to the chiropractor. Two adjustments later, he was fully functional and free of pain. (I would say he was back to normal, but certain family members would say that Bumble is never normal.)

Bumble’s skeletal issues cause him to overuse his neck and shoulders to take the strain off of his weak hips. This has probably made the elbow dysplasia worse, as he stresses his front end to compensate for the weaker back end. Sometimes seizures throw him out of alignment, but more often, if he gets too far out of alignment, it strains his system enough to bring on seizures. This is, of course, our observation; there is no hard scientific proof to connect the seizures to the bodily alignment issues. But there’s no getting around the fact that regular adjustments drastically reduce the number and severity of his seizures.

So which dogs need chiropractic treatment?

Dogs with arthritis or degenerative joint conditions
Dogs with chronic pain
Epileptic dogs
Dogs who display signs of injury
– maybe they jumped off the couch and twisted something, or wrenched something playing too hard.

Basically, any dog that shows signs of musculoskeletal pain or discomfort can probably benefit from chiropractic treatment. For those of you with long-bodied dogs like dachshunds or bassets, or dogs with chronic pain of any kind, I strongly recommend seeking out a good veterinary chiropractor. It can dramatically improve your pet’s quality of life, and in some cases, you may even see behavioral improvement as your pet feels better.

If your vet can’t refer you to a good chiropractor, you can look for one on www.avma.org, or for Texas residents, on www.tvma.org . Sometimes human chiropractors will also work on animals; ask your animal loving friends for referrals, too.

Wondering if your pet will appreciate chiropractic? I can’t speak for every animal, but Bumble, who notoriously resists being handled by most people, loves his chiropractor. His chiropractor can pick him up, pet him, and carry him around, liberties that most people will never be allowed by my cranky little guy. Most animals I’ve seen undergo chiropractic clearly understand that the person snapping and popping their joints immediately makes them feel better.