When ghosts and goblins come knocking on your door this Halloween, be ready to make it a good experience for trick-or-treaters as well as your pets. Americans spend an astounding $7 billiion on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations annually. Here are some tips to keep your pets out of harm’s way on this spooky holiday:

cat in Halloween costume– Candy, especially dark or baking chocolate, can be highly toxic to dogs and cats. Same goes for candy made with the artificial sweetener xylitol. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy, can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins, can cause a toxic reaction. Keep candy where it’s out of reach for pets.

– Make sure your pet has an I.D. — microchip, collar or ID tag — in case it escapes through an open door while you’re distracted with trick-or-treaters.

– We spend nearly $300 million on pet costumes, but we need to get it right for our pet’s safety. If you decide to dress up your pet in a costume, make sure it doesn’t mind. Some pets are o.k. with it, others are definitely not. If wearing a costume upsets your pet, then skip it.

– Pet costumes should fit properly, be comfortable, and not have any pieces that could be easily chewed off. Your pet’s costume should not impede their breathing, movement, hearing or vision. If possible, let your pet get used to a costume before Halloween by letting it wear the costume for short practice periods. Never leave your pet unsupervised while it’s wearing a costume.

– If you’ve decorated for Halloween, keep in mind that some pets may try to eat decorations, such as pumpkins or objects that include actual corn. These can cause upset stomachs or even more serious digestive blockage, so hang decorations up high and/or out of reach. Be especially careful with lit candles and jack-o-lanterns as pets can easily tip these over and cause fires.

– Kids ringing doorbells all evening can drive dogs and cats a little crazy. Dogs may bark excessively and cats may run and hide — and any pet could dart out an open door. Put your pets in a quiet room far from your front door; put up a baby gate or close the door; or turn on your TV or music to disguise doorbell ringing.

– Kids in costumes can be frightening to many dogs. Only very calm, unflappable dogs should be outside with you on Halloween and only on a leash. Calm, well-trained dogs can be asked to “sit” and “stay” to greet trick-or-treaters and then given treats to reward their good behavior.

– Unfortunately, Halloween can be a time for pranksters, especially those who get kicks out of being cruel to animals. Any pet can
be at risk, but especially black cats. Don’t let your pet out alone in the yard during the Halloween season. Outdoor cats should be kept indoors for the week leading up to and following Halloween.

– For families that want to include their pets in the Halloween festivities, there are Halloween-themed events scheduled in the Minneapolis metro area. Here are a few links to check out for pet-friendly Halloween events:

https://www.sidewalkdog.com/events/
https://woofntreat.com
https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-pet-friendly-halloween-events-in-minn/

If your pet is still highly stressed by Halloween in spite of all your precautions, ask your vet for suggestions on herbal calming remedies or mild tranquilizers.

Dogs are wonderful companions, but they’re also not fussy when it comes to sampling things around the home. It pays to know about pet toxins to keep your home safe for your canine.Puppy and adult dogThe Pet Poison Helpline posts lists yearly of common dog poisons that result in emergency calls to them. This list shows the most emergency calls in 2013 for animal poisoning:

  • Chocolate: Bakers and dark are the most toxic, and milk chocolate, if ingested in large amounts.

 

  • Xylitol: This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).

 

  • NSAIDS: ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestion causes stomach ulcers and kidney failure.

 

  • Over-the-counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.

 

  • Rodenticides (mouse poison): These may cause internal bleeding or brain swelling even in small amounts.

 

  • Grapes and raisins:  These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.

 

  • Insect bait stations:  These rarely cause poisoning in dogs–the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.

 

  • Prescription ADD/ADHD medications:  These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in pets.

 

  • Glucosamine joint supplements:  Overdose of tasty products such as Cosequin and Move Free typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.

 

  • Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers: Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses, or backpacks, are rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.

If your dog shows signs of pet poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness or lethargy, get them to your vet or an animal emergency clinic right away. The Pet Poison Helpline (800-218-6680) is another 24/7 resource to help you identify if your dog has pet poisoning. If you know or suspect the substance your dog got into, bring it along.

In any case, acting quickly is your best bet to save your pet from serious harm or even death.

A wagging tail means a happy dog, right? Not always…Since dogs haven’t found a way yet to talk to their owners, they use other means to convey what they’re thinking. Body language, especially tail wagging, is one.

The Science

A study completed by Italian researchers of dogs observing videos of other dogs wagging their tails to the right or left intended to determine whether dogs effectively utilize tail wags to communicate with each other. When watching dogs wagging their tails to the right, the observing dogs would relax and sometimes even try to approach the other dog. Dogs observed wagging their tails to the left, however, resulted in heightened heart rates and anxiousness in those dogs watching the videos.

The study concluded that dogs, like people, have asymmetrically oriented brains. The activation of one side of the brain based on an emotional response, would cause the tail to wag toward the opposite direction. According to the researchers, the directional wagging is not intended to be communication, it’s simply a byproduct of that mechanism of asymmetry, but it can still be a good indicator of a dog’s emotional state.

Dog wagging its tailWhile these studies of dog behavior may be valid, it can be hard for pet owners to put them to practical use. Dogs are much better at interpreting other dog behavior than humans. Plus, the tail wagging can be quite subtle and would require humans to see the wagging in slow motion to really observe differences.

The Practice

Dog trainer and educator Penny Layne has six dogs of her own and had this to say about the tail wagging study: “I don’t dispute the research, but what I have is the experience of the last 22 years of studying dogs and training them and as a speaker and I’m reading more than just the tail. You really have to look for a while to see if the tail is going left or right. You can’t waste that much time if your life is threatened,” she says.

The best way to tell if a dog’s tail wag is negative or positive, according to many pet experts, is to watch its overall body language. Happy dogs are relaxed, hold their tails at a natural height, and aren’t showing signs of anxiety or aggression in the rest of their body language. Pay attention to how they’re holding their ears, if their lips are tight or loose, if their hair or hackles are raised, and if they are vocalizing in any way.

You may also want to keep in mind the type of dog you’re observing. Dogs naturally hold their tails at different heights depending on their breed. In general, a broad wag to the side is typically a sign of a happy dog, especially if the hips are wiggling with the tail. This is often accompanied by relaxed ears and a soft or smiling mouth.

What to Watch For

According to VetDepot’s blog, there are three tail wagging behaviors that signal trouble:

  • A slow, low wag. This can be a sign of insecurity. If a dog is feeling fearful, it’s tail may continue to wag even if it’s tucked between the legs. If you think your dog is feeling uneasy for any reason, be cautious about introducing a new person or animal.

 

  • A slow, high wag. This is often a display of dominance. Be cautious if your dog is exhibiting this behavior.

 

  • A wagging tail accompanied by barking. This is often a warning sign of aggression or over-excitement.

Your dog has many ways to communicate with you, his or her tail is just one of them. Now that you know what signs to look for pay attention to what your pup’s tail is telling you and the dogs around them! This may help both of you stay safe and happy when interacting with other dogs.