Keeping pets safe on Halloween

With Halloween fast approaching, pet owners should consider how to best protect their animals from potentially dangerous tricks and treats.

Here are some tips for keeping your pet safe this Halloween:

*Beware the open door - Make sure pets wear a collar and ID tag and/or microchip with current information. If your pet escapes when a trick or treater comes calling, this information could be critical to finding them.

* Leave pets indoors. Avoid taking a pet trick or treating. Even the most well-tempered dog may panic and become aggressive if a costumed person startles them. Pets are less stressed kept in a quiet room away from the noise, excitement and strangers in costumes.

* Toxic treats. Chocolate can be toxic to pets, especially dogs. Consider this: a 50-pound dog can be sickened by ingesting only one ounce of Baker’s chocolate. It may take up to eight ounces of milk chocolate to cause poisoning in that same sized dog. White chocolate contains very low amounts of methylxanthine and rarely causes poisoning. Xylitol, the artificial sweetener found in some candy, can be poisonous to dogs as well. Candy wrappers made of aluminum foil or cellophane can cause intestinal blockage and vomiting. Raisins also are toxic (that was a new one on me) and can cause kidney failure in dogs. Even pumpkin and corn, considered non-toxic, can cause gastrointestinal problems. If you think your pet may have chocolate poisoning (symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and drinking excessively) call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $35 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case.

* Deadly decorations - Keep lit pumpkins and candles out of a pet's reach. Ribbons, streamers, electrical cords, confetti, and those fake cobwebs can all be dangerous if ingested by a curious pet.

* Pet costumes - As cute as it may be to dress up a pet, costumes can restrict an animal’s ability to bark, breathe, move, see or hear. Be especially careful when using costumes which use rubber bands as they can cut into a pet’s skin and cause injury. If you dress up your pet, practice safe costuming. If you must use some coloring, only use non-toxic hair dye or nail polish. The top searched costumes on Yahoo are Batman, Ewok, Slinky, Taco and Yoda. Apparently, Philadelphia pet owners are really into Halloween. Yahoo reports that earlier this month it charted 3 1/2 tumes as many searches for pet costumes as baby costumes. Among U.S. cities, Philadelphia ranks 5th in the number of searches for pet costumes (New York was No. 1) 

* Protect your cat! Keep cats of all colors inside around Halloween. Animal abusers often target cats at this time of year, particularly black and white cats, because of their historic association with the supernatural.