The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is flooded with calls every Halloween from worried pet owners and veterinarians who need help. To help you prepare for the big night, we've put together two lists—the first one for veterinarians and the second for pet owners—based on our most commonly noted problems. And don't forget to download the posters for fast and easy reference in your facility!
1) Prep for glow stick ingestion. The APCC gets lots of panicked calls around Halloween from people whose pets have ingested the liquid in glow sticks. Typically, pets experience a mild and self-limiting taste reaction. If you have an owner who reports a pet has had multiple taste reactions, try this: Take the pet into a dark place (like a closet or a windowless bathroom) and see if they glow (especially around their mouth or neck). You will want to wipe off any spots that glow with a damp cloth to prevent the pet from licking the substance and having another reaction.
3) Ask the right questions. Many times, obtaining a good history will be the most important thing you can do. Always make sure that you get as much information as possible. For example, if dealing with chocolate ingestion, find out all the details: Was it filled with anything? Was it sugar-free? Is there a percentage of cocoa listed on the package? How many ounces or pieces are missing?
4) Watch for emesis. Timely emesis is often key to preventing significant signs in asymptomatic pets with chocolate toxicosis. Dogs will often vomit a large percentage of the chocolate ingested, and we will avoid seeing significant signs in pets who have ingested mild to moderate doses of chocolate.
5) Test sedatives in advance. Some pets may need a sedative to cope with all the monsters coming to their doors. Make sure your clients know they should ask for instructions well in advance, and it is always a good idea to do a trial run before the big night to see how a pet will react to a sedative. Don't wait until Halloween night to test a new medication.
Top Halloween Tips for Pet Owners
Share these safety tips on social media and have them at your front desk for reference by staff.
1) Lock candy safely away. Kids love to stash candy in their rooms, but a dog's keen sense of smell will lead them to even the most cleverly hidden treasure. Contact a veterinary professional right away if your pet does get into Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or is sugar-free and contains xylitol.
2) Don't leave glow sticks lying around. Glow sticks are used to help keep kids safe while they are out in the dark. Pets (especially cats) find these glow sticks to be a lot of fun as well, and we commonly get calls about pets puncturing the sticks. While most of them are labeled as non-toxic, they do have an extremely bitter taste, and we will often see pets who bite into them drooling and racing around the house. A little treat or sip of milk will usually stop the taste reaction.
3) Keep your pet identified and visible. There are a lot of extra people on the streets at Halloween, and that combined with strange costumes can spook pets and cause them to bolt. If you take your pet out after dark, make sure they wear a reflective collar and are securely leashed. And make sure your pet has proper identification on the collar.
4) Calm your pet. Even pets who are kept indoors may experience intense anxiety over the large number of strangely dressed visitors. Keeping your pet away from trick-or-treaters may be best. If you think your pet could benefit from a sedative, be sure and speak with your vet well in advance about options to help calm your pet.
5) Check those costumes. Costumes can be fun for the whole family. If you plan to dress up your pet, ensure that the costume isn't a choking hazard if chewed on and fits well, so it doesn't slip and tangle the pet. Never leave a costumed pet unattended.