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Keeping pets safe this Halloween


Pets love to join in family fun, and reasonable boundaries can help keep holiday celebrations happy events.

Things that make Halloween a treat for people — costumes, candy, trick-or-treaters at the door — can overwhelm some pets, according to KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. Some elements of Halloween can even be dangerous for pets, she said. Chocolate, for example, can be deadly for dogs, as can xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in some gum and candies.

Theisen recommends putting pets in a "safe haven," meaning a room where they feel safe, comfortable and relaxed, and where they are separated from hazards.

Here are more HSUS tips on taking the terror out of your pet's Halloween:

Keep Halloween happenings on the down-low:

•Before trick-or-treating starts, put your pets in a quiet room.

•Even if you're just having friends over for a Halloween party, keep your pets away from the festivities in their safe room. Masks and costumes change how people look and smell to a pet, so even familiar people may become frightening.

•Leave your dogs at home when trick-or-treating. Dogs can be easily excited by the Halloween commotion, and a bite or a lost dog will quickly end the evening's fun.

•The top Halloween hazards for pets are escaping and accidental poisoning. Both animal shelters and veterinarians see a spike in their business during this season.

Stow treats out of pets' reach:

•Keep candy and other treats safely in a high cabinet secured with a lock or child-safety latch. Many foods, such as chocolate, gum and xylitol, are hazardous to them.

•Keep treats away from your children unless you are observing them. Children may make the harmful mistake of sharing with their four-legged friends.

•Keep on hand the number for the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline: (888) 426-4435. (Note: The hotline charges a $65 fee per case.) If you suspect your pet has eaten something poisonous, call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Center immediately.

Steer your pets away from dangerous decorations:

•Introduce your pets to their safe room before you decorate indoors. Changes to your home can make pets, especially cats, nervous or frightened.

•Never leave your pets alone with Halloween decorations.

•Be aware of which decorations pose threats. Some hazards are obvious, such as lit candles, which can be a fire hazard, and scented candles, which can be toxic to birds. Other potentially dangerous decorations include rubber eyeballs (choking risk), glow sticks and fake blood (possible poisons), fake cobwebs (can choke or entangle pets and wildlife), potpourri (toxic to birds) and strung lights.

Be cautious with pet costumes:

•Remember that most pets are happiest wearing nothing but their birthday suits.

•If you do choose a costume for your pet, forgo masks, anything that covers eyes or ears, and everything that might tangle in your pet's legs.

•Make sure the costume is comfortable and allows your pet to move freely.

•Remove any chewable parts or objects that could come off and choke your pet.

•If your pet appears uncomfortable, take off the costume. Signs of discomfort include folded down ears, eyes rolling back or looking sideways, a tucked tail and hunching over.

Protect your pets from outdoor perils:

•Bring your pets indoors before night falls. Cats are always safest inside with you, but on Halloween it's especially important to secure all pets inside.

•In case they escape, make sure that all of your pets are wearing tags with current IDs and consider microchipping them. Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of opportunities for a pet to slip outside and disappear into the night. Proper ID will help you reunite with your lost pet.

•Be aware that not all the wild creatures outside will be wearing costumes. You may see nocturnal animals such as raccoons, opossums and foxes foraging for food while you're trick-or-treating or walking from your car to a party.

— Source: Humane Society of the United States