Talking Pets: Be vigilant with hazards to our pets

October 26, 2012 

October is kind of special at our house. In addition to family birthdays to celebrate, my Reba came to live with me on Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis.

That was way back in 1996, and later that month she met her "primary care physician," Dr. Mike Mossler at Bayshore Animal Hospital. She still visits him, and we are truly blessed to have such a long relationship with him and his staff.

As it's turned out over the years, Reba goes for her annual checkup and shots around Halloween. The staff there has fun with the holiday, decorating the office and dressing up in costumes on Oct. 31.

One year, we went on the day itself, so I decided to let Reba in on the act. She had some pink felt rabbit ears, so I took them along with us.

We waited patiently for Dr. Mossler to call us, and

after he did and turned to walk down the hallway to the exam room, I quickly slipped the ears on Reba.

When I hoisted her up on the table (she was a lot lighter then) and Dr. Mossler turned around to greet us, there she was in her ears.

"Look who I brought," I said. "It's Reba Rabbit." We got a good laugh out of him for that one.

Now she and Ella, whose checkup day is around Nov. 5, the day she was rescued, go decked in Halloween-themed bandannas. Reba won hers years ago in a tail-wagging contest, and I bought a second one for Jethro the hound, who graciously passed it on to Ella.

Plan the holiday

And now Halloween is just around the corner again and it's time to plan the holiday in such a way that our pets stay safe.

In his column last week, Animal Services Director Kris Weiskopf wrote about some of the things of which we need to be mindful, and so I'd just like to add a few more.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, nearly three-fourths of Americans celebrated Halloween in 2011.

The Pet Poison Helpline ( says that, during the week around the holiday last year, calls to the help-line increased by 21 percent. It was one of the staff's busiest weeks on record.

Common hazards

Here is the Pet Poison Helpline's list of most common Halloween hazards for pets: chocolate, overeating candy, raisins, candy wrappers, glow sticks and jewelry, and candles.

Most pet owners know about chocolate, but other candy and sweet foods can be hazardous, as well. Be especially careful with foods containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener.

While xylitol is found naturally in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, according to WebMD, it is extracted from birch wood to make medicine and sweetener.

Xylitol can be toxic to dogs, even in relatively small amounts. If your dog eats something that contains xylitol, get him to a veterinary ER immediately.

Besides the dangers of this additive, lots of sugary or high-fat sweets fed to pets can lead to pancreatitis, a painful, potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas.

Other foods that need to be pet-proofed are raisins and grapes, which are extremely poisonous to dogs, resulting in possible kidney failure after eating only small amounts. No matter how much your pets beg for these, don't give in and let them have any, not even "just one."

Needless to say, if a pet gets into the candy and eats some, the wrappers are going down the hatch, too. I've seen this first-hand, when my shepherd-Lab ate some Hershey's kisses one time. Luckily, he was a big dog and didn't eat enough to make him sick, but he did leave some sparkly pooch pies in the yard for about two days.

Different kinds of wrappers, especially in a smaller animal, can sometimes cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction that may require surgery.

Watch the decor, too

Aside from food, certain accessories and decorations pose serious hazards to pets.

Cats are especially vulnerable to glow sticks and glow jewelry because they are colorful and chewy. Eating a glow stick may not be life-threatening, but it can make a cat sick.

Contents of a glow stick can cause mouth pain and lots of drooling and foaming. If the busted glow stick leaks on the cat, the chemical needs to be washed off its fur because grooming can lead to poisoning, too.

Probably one of the most popular Halloween decorations is lit candles. Just as we need to be careful with them in general, extra care should be taken to make sure pets can't get burned.

You may think lit candles are in a safe place, but wagging tails could invade their space and catch on fire.

Halloween can be a festive time for families, and it's just the beginning of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas looming on the calendar.

If we can practice these precautions on holidays then we can adhere to them year-round, keeping our furry friends safe.

And as pet owners, isn't that what we're supposed to do?


Sadly, just hours after this column was written, Reba went to the Rainbow Bridge. I am truly grateful for the 16 years we had together, and for the great medical care she got at Bayshore Animal Hospital during her life, and at Veterinary Emergency Center on Cortez Road at the end of her life.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054.

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