Take care with your pets around lit jack o' lanterns!Things that go bump in the night shouldn’t include your pets, so follow a few simple tips to make sure Howl-o-ween won’t be scary or dangerous for your canine or feline best friend!  Walk pets early so that they can answer nature’s call before the goblins come out. During peak Trick-or-Treat hours, keep them in a quiet room or on a leash at your side as bizarre looking visitors with high-pitched voices could make dogs feel the need to protect their home and humans. These sights and sounds might make even the boldest pussy cat flee, so keep pets secure.

Use good judgment in dressing your pets up. Realize that even though you think your pet looks adorable in a costume, he may not be as receptive. If he looks miserable…your pet probably is! If Fido dons a disguise however, make sure it does not have beads or strings he can ingest. Do not cover his face with a mask — even the most easy-going pooch can become snippy when he can’t see what’s going on around him. Make sure elastic isn’t restricting, and don’t paint fur, but if using dye…make sure dye is non-toxic, doesn’t irritate skin or get into your pet’s eyes, nose or mouth. The biggest no, no of all…Never, ever leave a costumed pet unattended. A Halloween bandana or festive collar is always a good alternative.

Remind kids not to share their “loot” with pets, and store your goodies out of paws reach and when on your morning-after walk, make sure your dog doesn’t find treats dropped the night before. Animals consume wrappers and all which can cause intestinal blockages and choking incidents. Additionally, chocolate can be fatal to dogs, cats and ferrets! The problem isn’t just the fat chocolate contains, but even worse is the caffeine-like substance known as Theobromine–a naturally occurring stimulant found in the cocoa bean. An animal that has ingested too much chocolate can experience rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and death. The only good news is that it takes a fairly large amount of Theobromine to cause a toxic reaction in your pet. However…do realize that every animal is different and some are much more sensitive to toxins than others meaning they can suffer ill effects on even the smallest amount of a substance. Your pet’s body weight, general health and the amount he has consumed as well as what type of chocolate will determine his reaction. One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of your dog’s body weight can be toxic. For example: 1/2 pound for an 8 lbs dog or 4 pounds consumed by a 65 lbs dog would make him very ill or worse. Once swallowed, there is no specific antidote for chocolate poisoning, so if you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate, induce vomiting at once by administering one Tablespoon of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide for every 15 lbs your dog weighs. Dribble it onto the back of his tongue with an eye dropper or needle-less syringe until he swallows. As an alternative, activated charcoal may help absorb the toxins in your pet’s stomach and buy you time to get to the Animal Emergency Center before the poison travels through your pet’s bloodstream. Once at the Animal ER, the Veterinarian will flush your dog’s system, give intravenous medications to protect his heart and treat whatever symptoms occur.

Decorations around pets are usually a bad combination. New objects in the house are likely to arouse your pet’s curiosity, and he could end up tangled on light cords or accidentally knock over candles and jack-o-lanterns. Cornstalks and pumpkins look great outside but are tempting to chew on. Restrict access to dangerous items to prevent burns and fire hazards should they get bumped into.

Keep your cats and dogs inside for the night (and every night). People lured by myths and legends (and even those taking advantage of the anonymity of costumes) may succumb to malicious pranks targeting black cats or other animals. They may tease, injure, steal or torture your pet. If you see anything suspicious regarding the treatment of an animal, call your local animal control or police department immediately. Remember — Black cats are NOT evil or unlucky. They are as sweet as other cats. The only difference is the color of their fur. In Asia and the U.K., black cats are considered lucky but here in the U.S. they are targets for malicious pranks, so keep them indoors especially during the weeks leading up to and on Halloween for their safety.

Finally, do remember that October can still be very HOT in some parts of the country! Make sure your pets have plenty of shade and water. Never leave them unattended in a parked car and be certain that kennels, pet carriers and even rooms in your house are cool with good ventilation for your pets.

Denise Fleck is an award winning author, freelance writer and a two-time finalist as Pet Industry’s Woman of the Year. After extensive training, practice, more training and more practice, she developed her own Pet First-Aid & CPCR curriculum and has been teaching animal life-saving skills for 15 years with many success stories to share – including teaching a record 10,000 students in person! Fleck also teaches a 5 month long Animal Care course for high school students in conjunction with the Burbank Unified School District and Animal Shelter.  She has demonstrated animal life-saving skills on CBS –TV’s “The Doctors,” Animal Planet’s “Pit Boss,” “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life” and countless other shows. To complement her teachings, she created a line of Pet First-Aid Kits, posters and books for children teaching animal respect and care!  Visit www.sunnydogink.com or call (818) 951-7962.