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5 ways to avoid danger to pets at Halloween

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Halloween may not be as flat-out noisy as holidays such as Independence Day or New Year’s Eve, with all the fireworks, or any of the many holidays that, around Chicago, feature parades full of emergency vehicle sirens and marching bands. But Halloween can be a worrisome day for your pets nonetheless. Here’s how you can keep it a safe one.

5. Be prepared. Remember that, in regard to safety concerns, most pets can be considered to function as very active human toddlers. They have little sense of self-preservation, whether with regard to chewing on or eating things (such a decorations or bowls of treats), or getting themselves into dangerous situations. Make sure pets have ID tags … and because tags can get lost or collars come off, microchipping your dog or cat greatly increases the chances of recovering a runaway pet. (And, if you take them outside regularly, you should consider chipping even a pet rabbit or ferret, both of which could run off if frightened by, say, a loose dog or a stooping hawk.

4. Costume safely. Only dress your pet in costumes if you know this pet enjoys such attention and has been OK with other clothing or accessories—and use the same choking/safety considerations you would with a human toddler. If the pet will be accompanying you and your children trick-or-treating, reflectivity may also be a concern worth addressing. The accompanying video gives more details on how to choose a costume wisely, including considerations for pet parades.

3. Keep pets away from costumed groups. Whether out walking or at home, keep dogs away from costumed trick-or-treaters. Dogs may see even people they know, especially groups of excited kids, as scary strangers when disguised by odd costumes. A dog's defensive or fear reactions may include aggressive behavior such as growling, barking, and even biting.

2. Keep pets under control and reassured. In general, being inside keeps your pets safe from pranksters (or worse). But, even inside, you may want to shut your dog or cat or other free-ranging pet into a room away from the front door, to avoid the chance that a spooked (pun intended) animal might dart out the open door while you’re distributing Halloween goodies. This also keeps them away from dangerous decorations (the candle in your jack-o-lantern, for instance) ... and from the treats.

1. Chocolate ... and other candies. Chocolate is bad for just about any non-human out there, birds and reptiles as well as mammals. It can cause anything from diarrhea and vomiting to heart rhythm irregularities and death. But excessive sugar can also cause severe digestive and other upsets. And that's not even considering the dangers from ingesting lollypop sticks and candy wrappers. Plus, consider the sugar or chocolate dosing issue: The one chocolate chip cookie stolen by a 90 lb young shepherd or 240 lb mastiff might not cause enough upset for you to notice, but in a 25 lb beagle or a 6 lb cat or a 3 lb ferret, one cookie scales up to the equivalent of 150 lb you eating anywhere from a dozen (for the beagle) to more like 7 or 8 dozen cookies (for a ferret or 3-lb kitten or puppy)—enough to make even a human pretty sick! Plus, just as with humans and drugs, some individuals of any species are more sensitive to chocolate than others.

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