6 March 2010
Veterinarians are cautioning pet owners to be aware of the stresses and dangers of Halloween and to keep their pets safe.
Pets see Halloween as a stressful time of parties, endless doorbell ringing, loud and scary noises in the night and a stream of strangers visiting the home. Sadly, pets are also often injured, terrorised and even killed at this time of year.
“Black cats are often the target of malicious acts and should be kept inside during this holiday,” warns Dr Sarah Goldsmid, veterinary surgeon from Sydney's Animal Referral Hospital.
During Halloween, ARH staff at the Homebush and Baulkham Hills clinics often sees pets suffering from injuries, accidents and poisoning. Parties have loud music and often fireworks, which result in gates being left open and animals that are noise-phobic escaping, which then lead to lost pets and animals hit by motor vehicles, says Dr Goldsmid.
“It's is crucial that your pet’s microchip details are up-to-date on our national databases, as the emergency service teams are often confronted with animals presenting after hours that have injuries with non-valid microchips,” she says. “When owners cannot be located and consent obtained, treatment options become limited to basic first aid and stabilisation. Also injured stray animals are not accepted by local pounds, forcing emergency centres to send these animals to the RSPCA.”
Food toxic to pets
Vets also see animals fed candy and chocolate, which are toxic and can result in a range of symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, pancreatitis, seizures, coma and in extreme cases death, says Dr Goldsmid.
“Chocolate contains a substance known as theobromine, a similar substance found in coffee and tea, that has effects on the nervous system, heart, kidneys and muscles," she says. “The side effects depend on the size of the dog and amount and type (percentage of cocoa solids in it) of chocolate ingested. There is no antidote for chocolate toxicity and treatment is aimed at controlling the clinical signs.”
Gum, boiled sweets and lollies should also be avoided as these sweets usually contain high levels of sugar, which can cause dental disease and intestinal upsets if fed too much.
"Instead, feed treats designed purposely for pets," says Dr Goldsmid. "Although they may not seem appetising to us, a well-prepared liver treat is often as palatable to a dog as any chocolate or candy that we may give them."
Other Halloween dangers and tips
Ticks and snakes are also a great concern this time of year as bites can be deadly to animals. Common signs of tick paralysis in dogs include difficulty breathing, weakness and change in bark. Snake bite symptoms develop more quickly and need veterinary attention immediately, says Dr Goldsmid.
"The ARH is open 24 hours, seven days a week and has a Snake Venom Detection test available to help identify the causative snake and administer the appropriate antivenom more quickly," she adds.
Dr Goldsmid shares some tips to keep your pet safe on Halloween:
- Keep your pet indoors at night, especially cats.
- Keep candy, wrappers, decorations and lighted pumpkins out of your pet’s reach.
- If you dress up your pet, ensure the costume doesn’t restrict movement, vision, hearing or ability to breath.
- Avoid pet costumes with small or dangling accessories that can be chewed off and possibly choked on.
- Wearing a costume can be stressful so don’t dress your pet unless you know they enjoy it.
- Best not to take your dog trick-or-treating. Dogs may become excited and uncontrollable, and if frightened may bite or escape.
About the Animal Referral Hospital
The Animal Referral Hospital is the largest privately owned, 24-hour veterinary hospital in the southern hemisphere, offering pet owners an improved level of service with specialist care and advanced veterinary technology in a state-of-the-art facility.
The ARH in Homebush can also accommodate pet owners who travel from the country and interstate at a hotel adjacent to the site – a short walk from Sydney’s famous Paddy’s Market. It has CAT scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines on site.
The ARH in Baulkham Hills has been renovated with additional hospital and laboratory equipment to provide accurate and rapid results and provide an increased level of patient and client care, serving the West and Blue Mountains. The ARH currently employs more than 100 staff at two sites, including specialist veterinarians, emergency veterinarians, and specialised veterinary nurses.