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Halloween candy

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

This year more than ever I consider my pet my best friend and most loyal companion. I love that social distancing is not necessary when we get together. Therefore, I always want to make sure everything we do is safe and there are some things to look out for in the fall. Here is a list of common hazards to avoid:

Acorns — Acorns swallowed whole can become intestinal obstructions in smaller dogs and cats. In addition, the meaty inner portion of the acorn contains a poisonous compound called gallotannins. Gallotannins are extremely irritating to the lining of the stomach and bowels. Small amounts cause mild vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts could lead to severe bloody vomiting, diarrhea, and shock secondary to dehydration and bleeding.

RodenticidesIn the fall the cooler temperatures force rodents inside and the use of rodenticides increases. If you are forced to use rodenticides make sure to put in places where no accidental exposure to your pets is possible. 

Mushrooms  Certain types of mushrooms contain a toxic component called amanitin. Amanitin causes rapid hepatocellular necrosis, or liver cell death. A single mushroom can be potentially lethal depending on the size of your pet. There is no specific antidote so if you suspect your pet has ingested this get them to your veterinarian as soon as possible to make them vomit, as well as other decontamination procedures and care.

Old rotten and moldy food — If you do have people over for a get together make sure to clean up old food. Bacteria and mold that grow on food (and it doesn’t take long in the warm, moist weather we see in the summer) release certain toxins when ingested that can lead not only to vomiting and diarrhea but also potentially kidney, heart, and central nervous system damage. Also certain bones (especially hollow bones like chicken bones) can lead to either obstructions or perforations of the bowel.

Antifreeze Toxicity — More and more companies are using propylene glycol (which is harmless to pets), however many still use ethylene glycol. Even small amounts of ethylene glycol can cause permanent, even fatal kidney damage. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based antifreeze if you haven’t already.

Halloween Candy — everyone knows that chocolate is toxic to pets but other problems include wrappings that can lead to an intestinal obstruction or choking hazard. Some sugar free candies also contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. Make sure all Halloween candy is in a safe place out of reach of pets.

I hope these tips help to keep this fall safe for you and your pet.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I thought it a good time to recycle an article that is appropriate for this time of year. Here are a few tips to make sure this and every Halloween is a safe and happy one.

Candy and chocolate poisoning

Chocolate is dangerous for two reasons. The first is that it contains two chemicals — caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants in the methylxanthine class. White chocolate contains almost none of these compounds and baking chocolate has the highest concentrations. 

Symptoms begin within 6 to 12 hours after ingestion and include panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination. High concentrations lead to irregular heart rhythms, seizures, coma and death. There are specific toxic levels for all pets but, just like people, some dogs and cats can be very sensitive to chocolate and show signs of poisoning from much lesser amounts.  

Chocolate is also very high in sugar and fat. Minimally this could cause some mild diarrhea, but I have personally seen a few cases of serious gastroenteritis, pancreatitis and liver disease from ingestion of large amounts of chocolate and other candy.

Unfortunately, dogs and cats (especially young ones) will be more interested in eating their costume than wearing it. I have both experienced, as well as heard from colleagues, stories of pulling out portions of a witch’s nose, small scarecrow teddy bears, etc. The wrappers from candy can sometimes get wadded up in the stomach or small intestines and either cause intense pain or unavoidable (and expensive) surgery. Corn cobs used as decorations should also be out of reach of curious (and hungry pets). As much as you want the house to look festival, make sure to keep all holiday items out of reach of pets. 

Fears and phobias

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet is afraid of loud noises or large numbers of people coming to the door. Many times a calming supplement or mild tranquilizer sedative is all that is needed to get through Halloween, but always have your pet examined by the veterinarian (especially older pets) before administering these medications. Tranquilizers will cause a drop in blood pressure, which in healthy pets is not a problem but in older or diseased pets can be dangerous (even life-threatening in some cases).  

Malicious injuries

Be aware (especially with cats that go outside) that they are in for the night early. Unfortunately, we do see malicious acts toward animals increase on this particular holiday.  

I hope this information is helpful in providing a safe Halloween environment for our pets.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.