Pet owners offered Halloween tips

PARKERSBURG – For pets, Halloween often has more tricks than treats.

Second only to the Fourth of July in terms of stress, Halloween can be a frightening time for dogs and cats who might be alarmed at the parade of costumed strangers ranging through neighborhoods and knocking on doors.

“The Fourth of July is a big one because of fireworks, but Halloween is probably up there,” said Anne Casto, a veterinarian with Parkersburg Veterinary Hospital.

Not only can the holiday cause stress, it can also lead to dangerous situations for pets, so there are a number of things to watch out for. Casto said one important rule to follow is to not let pets wander during certain times of the season.

“Keep your pets inside during trick-or-treat,” Casto said. “There are a lot of people out and a lot of cars out.”

The tip is not only to protect your pet, but also to protect children and adults who may accidentaly spook an animal.

“You never know how a dog is going to behave in a crowd,” she said. “In a situation where there are people in costumes who are strangers, they may react aggressively.”

Casto said even inside pets can be unnerved as children and adults approach a home in waves.

“Put them in a room away from the sound as best you can. Even turn on a television or a radio so they have some noise to distract them,” she said. “It reduces their stress and decreases the chance of them escaping as you open the door for trick-or-treaters.”

Officials also said Halloween is particularly dangerous for black cats who, due to a host of superstitions, may be targeted by pranksters.

“Especially black cats,” Casto said. “Though I’ve not had anyone come in locally, we’ve all heard the horror stories. Keep all cats inside, especially black cats.”

In addition to the strange sights and sounds, there is another more tasty danger – candy.

“In general we know not to feed your cats and dogs chocolate or raisins or grapes (which are toxic for animals), but all candy can get dangerous,” Casto said.

In addition to candy being potentially toxic, upsetting stomachs and acting as a choking hazard, pets “will eat the wrappers as well. It all smells pretty good to them.”

Casto also said while that bumblebee costume for your dog or tiny witch’s hat for your kitty cat might be adorable, make sure it’s one that won’t harm your pet.

“Make sure they aren’t too constricting and that it is something your pet will tolerate wearing. You don’t want them to catch on something or choke themselves,” she said. “Also watch out for regular costumes around pets, as they can eat strings or ribbons that hang off of those.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also releases an annual list of Halloween safety tips for pets. Those include:

* Lit Jack-O-Lanterns can be a burn and fire hazard for curious pets.

* Watch for wires or cords on electrical devices which could be chewed on by pets. Try to keep such cords out of the way and out of reach for pets.

* Popular Halloween plants like pumpkins and decorative corn, while not toxic to most pets, can upset their stomachs and lead to some un-fun cleanup for owners.

* Keep an ID on your pet just in case they do get out the door while answering the call of trick-or-treaters.

* If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.