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Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs and What to Do About It

’Tis the season of dropping temperatures! With or without snow, it’s possible for your dog to catch cold. Be sure he or she doesn’t get so cold that hypothermia develops! If you see any of these signs and symptoms, bring your dog to your local veterinarian for quick and effective treatment.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low internal body temperature. For dogs, this means their temperature has dropped below the normal body temperature of 37.8˚C (100.1˚F) to 39.1C˚ (102.5˚F).

An abnormally low core temperature can lead to complications that are quite severe. Protect them as much as possible, and watch for symptoms that indicate they’ve been too cold for too long.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

When your dog is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time, the first worrisome symptom to note is shivering. His or her body shivers to create heat, which also signals that the blood vessels in the paws, nose, ears, and tail are constricting in order to send that heat to their most important organs like the heart and lungs.

Signs of your dog’s dropping body temperature are:

  • Their limbs are becoming very cold
  • Their breathing will be very rapid
  • Increased urination
  • Their hair is standing on end (the doggy version of goose bumps)
  • Shivering
  • They will become lethargic
  • Disorientation
  • Pale gums
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Quickly take your pup to a veterinarian or to an animal hospital for immediate medical help if you see the signs that are suggestive of hypothermia:

  • He or she is still very cold, but has stopped shivering
  • He or she is not only lethargic but also disoriented
  • Their rapid breathing has slowed and is now shallow
  • Their nose, ears, paws, and tail look pale
  • Their internal body temperature has fallen below 36.7˚ C (98˚ F)

Which Dogs Need Protection the Most?

Dogs who are most at risk for hypothermia are those:

  • Who are very young or very old
  • With low body fat
  • With very little or very thin fur
  • With hypothyroidism because the thyroid regulates body temperature
  • Who are not used to cold weather
  • Small breeds such as Chihuahuas who can lose heat more quickly because of their size

The usual causes of a dangerous drop in a dog’s core temperature are:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time
  • Icy cold, wet fur and skin and paws
  • Cold water exposure for long durations

Here is What to do for Your Cold Dog

As long as your dog is not showing a serious drop in core temperature, you can treat the problem at home. Consider investing in a rectal thermometer so that you can take their temperature yourself and find out exactly how cold he or she is. (There’s nothing wrong with asking your vet for help with this part however, especially if this makes you both uncomfortable!)

Quickly warm blankets in the dryer, wrap them around your dog, and place him or her in a warm room. A hot water bottle or a hot pad warmed in the microwave can be wrapped and placed on your dog’s tummy. Make sure this heat pad is well-wrapped in a towel so that it doesn’t burn them by accident! Give your pup warm fluids to drink.

Do not put your pet into a warm bath! The sudden shift in temperature exposure could be too much for your dog to handle and only make the situation worse.

If you are concerned about your pup, bring them to a dog hospital right away. Have your veterinarian check for any long-term, negative effects from your dog’s hypothermia experience. The above methods we just described are good for starting the heating process on the way to your vet clinic.

Tips for Caring for Your Pet When the Weather is Cold

The best defense against hypothermia is a good offence, which means making sure your dog is not exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time.

  • If it is cold outside, walk your dog more frequently for shorter lengths of time.
  • Give your pooch a winter wardrobe! Outfit him or her in a protective jacket and even booties if they’re not used to the cold or is considered to be an “at-risk” dog (e.g., any small, skinny, sick, or old dog—especially if they’re arthritic—or a puppy, or any dog with a single layer of hair and no undercoat).
  • Keep your pooch out of water, even from melting snow puddles or regular rain puddles.
  • Even when inside of a car, your pet may freeze in the winter. The weather may be suitable for taking your dog on a brisk walk, but that same temperature can cause hypothermia to set in if he or she is sitting in a cold car. Make sure they’re kept warm!
  • If your pet is left alone in a cold house, their core temperature may drop enough that they start to shiver. Think of your pets when you lower the house temperature on workdays.
  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside for extended periods when it is windy and cold.
  • When taking your dog for a walk, avoid ice salts, which can irritate the feet and paws of animals.
  • Little balls of ice may sometimes get caught between your dog’s toes. This not only hurt dogs, they can also cut into their feet. Remove any icy bits from their paws immediately if you discover this. It’s best to train your dog to accept wearing booties to prevent this cold weather hazard from occurring in the first place.
  • Make sure your dog always has good shelter and warmth whenever you must take them outside. If the weather becomes dire, keep your pup indoors at all times.
  • Antifreeze, which is used a lot in the winter for vehicles, is very poisonous to dogs. Make sure any containers you have around the house are well out of the reach from your dog’s tongue. Wipe up any antifreeze that spills. If your dog somehow manages even one lick of antifreeze, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Winter can be a dangerous season for pets. If you’re a dog owner, please exercise caution when you’re taking your beloved dog outside, and keep watch for the aforementioned signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Early-stage hypothermia can be treated quickly and easily at home, but your dog should be taken to a veterinarian or an animal hospital right away if they show any signs of later-stage hypothermia. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry by having them come in even if it’s early-stage.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

The Importance of Pet Oral and Dental Care

The year has well and truly begun and New Year resolutions are the entire craze. While we may have set many personal and professional goals for ourselves, it is important to set goals for our little four-legged friends too. Dogs and cats don’t really need to plan on quitting smoking or be in charge of their gym and play schedules. And they definitely do not know the importance of brushing their teeth every night.

While you may set more than one resolution in order to get your pet a healthy lifestyle, an important one to include would be improved pet dental and oral care. Dental disease is the most commonly recorded medical problem during vet visits for both cats and dogs. Like for our own health, good pet health care starts with the mouth.

So, how can you improve your pet’s oral and dental health? In addition to brushing the teeth daily (using a dog or cat toothbrush and toothpaste), it is important to make healthy choices when it comes to dental treats and chew toys. Ensure that such treats and toys are safe for your pet based on ingredients and the size, temperament, and needs of your pet.

Also, it would be wise to take your pet to your veterinarian for a detailed dental and oral exam. This will help assess if your pet needs a dental cleaning (ideally under general anesthesia) prior to initiating a routine oral care program. Most veterinary clinics offer dental exam and dentistry discounts this time of the year, in order to increase awareness regarding dental disease in pets. Be sure to make the most of this opportunity to initiate a conversation and learn more about oral care from a veterinarian.

Most pet store dental chews and treats will work for healthy pets, along with daily teeth brushing. If your pet has been diagnosed with a medical condition or if tooth brushing is not an option due to a lack of compliance by your pet, a diet such as Hill’s T /D or Royal Canin Medical Dental formula may be right for your pet.

It is important to remember that regular teeth brushing is vital. If you brush your pets’ teeth any less than every other day, you are better off not brushing them at all. A good pet oral health program is literally in your own hands.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa, DVM
Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

A Merry Christmas for Pets

It is the festive season—the season of goodwill and reflection alongside the busy schedule of reaching out to family and friends. It is also a time when we can have the pleasure of sharing a little extra time with our pets or companion animals. After all, they have been there for us throughout the year, tough times and good. And they will be by our sides during the coming year as well.

So what can be the perfect gift for our pet during this gift-giving time of the year? I have always had a tough time bringing gifts home for my cat and dog. Dogs crave company and that is all they look forward to while cats take all your efforts for granted! After all, cats are the real homeowners! It is such traits in our pets that would help select the ideal gift or treat for our pets. Sweaters for the cold days, some designer bling (neck collars, leashes, etc.), their favorite treat, or a day devoted to spoiling them are just a few options. Every pet is different as every person is, and knowing what would be best for the individual pet is the key to pet gift-giving. What we can surely count on is that such a gesture would be much appreciated.

Please enjoy this festive season with your pets – but remember to enjoy responsibly:

  1. Do not bring plants toxic to pets into the house.
  2. Party food can be calorie-rich and is not ideal for pets to consume.
  3. Make sure that all pets are accounted for at the end of each day as outdoor cats can suffer from the low temperature if left out for even one night.
  4. Cats may hide by automobile tires for warmth during cold days and it is important to start the engine for a few minutes before driving to warn such a sleeping animal.

Happy holidays!

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner at Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Safe During Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for everyone. There’s so much to do, especially if you are planning to have family and loved ones visit this year. The tree needs to be decorated, there’s planning and shopping for gifts to do, there’s food and baking to prepare for…the list goes on.

What about your pets though, particularly cats? A reality all cat owners must face is a huge number of hazards to watch out for during this busy time of the year. Luckily, we have some cat care-based solutions that will help you both enjoy the Christmas season without throwing an emergency trip to your veterinarian into the mix!

Problem #1: Christmas Trees

Who doesn’t love Christmas trees? They’re a classic symbol of the Christmas season. Unfortunately, your cat is also a fan of them. It’s hard to keep kitties from playing with Christmas trees and their decorations. Glass balls, garlands, beads, fake snow, ribbons, strings of Christmas lights, candy canes…you name it, it’s all hazardous for kitty. Your cat may also get the bright idea to climb up and into the tree!

The type of tree you decide to decorate can also pose problems. If you chose to put a real tree in your home for Christmas, kitty may want to drink the water from the tree stand which contains tree oils that are toxic to cats. Accidents such as bowel obstructions and poisoning can happen when Christmas trees and cats are mixed together, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital.

Solutions: Aside from keeping a close eye on your kitty during the day, it’s best to put up your tree in a confined room where the door can be shut. Keep your kitty distracted while the tree is being decorated by providing them with toys and even a few treats away from the excitement. You may even need to put kitty in a separate room with the door shut when it’s time to decorate. You will need to confine your kitty away from the tree whenever you are not at home or sleeping as well.

If your cat’s encounter with a Christmas tree is unavoidable, there are ways to cat-proof your tree. Try using a citrus repellant to spray on or near the tree; it can add a pleasant smell for you and keep your cat away (cats hate citrus smells!). You may need to re-apply the spray whenever necessary. If you insist on using a real tree for Christmas, find a covered tree stand to keep kitty from drinking the water out of it or conceal your current one.

One creative solution we can offer is to vary your form of Christmas tree this year. For example, if you own a lot of books, why not make a book tree this year? There are lots of great ideas for how to make a book tree online if you don’t know already. You can set it up wherever kitty can’t reach, leaving you ample room for decoration!

Speaking of such…

Problem #2: Decorations

We’re not only talking about the ones you find on a Christmas tree, but also around the rest of the house. Tinsel is still sold in stores and used as a decoration, but it’s the number one hazard for kitties! Basically, anything that glitters, glows, dangles, and spins will all convince kitty to play. Even the ribbons on top of your Christmas presents under the tree can be a choking hazard.

Solution: Plastic decorations are a good alternative to the fragile glass ones offered in stores. Any decorations that are matte, less shiny, and less than likely to dangle will also be less appealing to your cat. Be sure to fasten your decorations as securely as possible and to hang them out of kitty’s reach. When it comes to gift wrapping, it’s best to avoid adding ribbons and bows entirely.

Problem #3: Christmas Plants

Poinsettias are another classic Christmas symbol, but did you know they’re actually highly toxic to cats? Holly, mistletoe, pine needles, amaryllis, and Christmas cactus leaves are also bad for kitty and could result in poisoning if ingested. If you see any signs of poisoning in your cat such as excessive drooling, vomiting, lethargy, breathing problems, diarrhea, or tremors, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Solution: Just like with decorations, there are plastic variations of Christmas plants that won’t bring harm to kitty, and you won’t have to give up decorating your home. If your kitty can’t reach certain areas in the home and you simply must have Christmas plants, keep them out of kitty’s reach just as you would with your regular decorations.

Problem #4: People Food

Both dogs and cats are guilty of trying to eat the same food humans do, especially roast turkey with gravy or ham. The smells are so enticing they can’t help but nibble. Unfortunately, human food is not okay for pets, and Christmas is another one of those holidays where pets may try to nibble on chocolate, much like on Halloween and Easter.

Solution: Offer your kitty some turkey or chicken-flavoured wet food that’s veterinarian approved instead of allowing them to eat human food (the tins wet food comes in usually contain gravy, so bonus!). Feed your kitty away from where you’re having Christmas dinner. If you have kids or are expecting children visitors, it’s a good idea to take them aside and show them exactly what they can and cannot give kitty as far as treats and food go.

We understand that these are a lot of precautions to worry about during Christmas, but don’t let this get you down! You can still have a wonderful holiday season by following our cat care advice. This is the time of the year where being with the ones you love matters the most; if you include your kitty in the mix, we’re sure you won’t miss the other stuff at all!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Dog

Christmas is here again, and you’re ticking off each person on your shopping list. But wait—did you forget about Fido? Maybe you’re not sure what to give your dog for a Christmas present. Fortunately, we have a lot of gift ideas for dogs to offer you including lots of DIY (do it yourself) gift ideas.

Of course, when it comes to anything involving your dog, be wary of their overall health and safety. Whether it be a toy or treat, if you’re not sure about a certain gift, ask your veterinarian.

Idea 1: Fancy Store Bought Items

If you’re someone who considers your dog as your fur baby, then these ideas may be right up your alley. How about some doggie perfume? Yes, they have scents made especially for your dog at pet supply stores, but please do make sure to read the labels carefully and consult your vet if you’re concerned about allergies. Along with the scent theme, there are doggie candles as well. However, it may be best to avoid the candles altogether (that way there is less risk of fire accidents for you and Fido) and instead opt for vet-recommended sprays and scents to give to your anxious pooch.

If your dog will wear them, you can get some adorable Christmas-themed sweaters, jackets, and booties. If the cold weather arrives early, the booties may especially come in handy!

Let’s say you’re a fitness buff, and you’d like your pooch to be one too. Consider investing in a doggie treadmill or another such piece of doggie-centric fitness equipment (so long as you have the room in your home and your budget, of course!). If you and your pup are outdoor enthusiasts, reflective gear and backpack pet first aid kits are great stocking stuffers!

Idea 2: Store Bought Basics

There are many different types of toys you can buy your dog in the store. Basics include food or treat dispensers, which makes them work for their treat, is mentally stimulating, and makes for good exercise. You can also find non-stuffed squeak toys, which are great for playing tug of war, but be wary when it comes to the squeaker (especially if your dog likes to tear things apart!).

Don’t forget the treats! There are a lot of special Christmas-themed dog treats you can purchase, Again, make sure you carefully read the ingredients and be sure they’re right for your dog, especially if they have food or even skin allergies.

Speaking of treats and food, you can get them a new food dish or dishes perhaps if their old ones are looking dingy and worn out. For on-the-go dogs, you can get them a doggie water bottle.

Is their leash or collar looking worn out too? Perhaps it’s time for new ones. You can also get personalized dog tags to attach to their new spiffy collar.

Maybe their dog bed or pillow is looking like it has seen better days? It could be time for a new one, and there are so many awesome pillows out there!

Idea 3: Endless DIY Projects 

The Internet offers endless amounts of DIY projects you can make for your dog. Pinterest has grown to be one such resource for crafting your own doggie stuff, such as:

  • Dog beds
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • A toy box to store all their playthings
  • Treat jars
  • Baked goods (be sure to account for any possible allergies in your dog, and make sure the ingredients are dog-friendly!)
  • Personalized stockings and dog toys, using fabric and tennis balls to create an animal or perhaps braid some fleece for rope

That’s just to name a handful! 

Idea 4: Activities

If you have snow this Christmas, skijoring would be a fun activity for both you and your dog, provided you like skiing. Skijoring involves your dog pulling you by running ahead in the snow while you’re on cross-country skis. Be sure to stay on a trail or straight road to prevent accidents and injuries!

Maybe go out for the day at an indoor dog park if it’s too icky outside (providing you can get there). If there are no local parks nearby, perhaps pampering your pup at a doggy daycare would be fun, or sign them up for an indoor training course.

If it’s cold outside and they have everything they need as far as dog care goes, the best gift you can give your pooch is some much-needed cuddle time by the fire, or on the couch, or on your bed—wherever is comfy. Snuggling with your fur baby gives them attention, affection, and love, not to mention it will keep you both warm on a cold day.

Is it time for their winter trim? Treat them to a doggie spa day and go for the full package, nails included. If there is no spa nearby or they’re closed, consider taking Fido to your veterinarian—they can offer grooming and nail trimming too, as well as some cuddles!

If you know any other dogs in the neighborhood that get along with yours, set up a playdate with toys and treats. Maybe get together at the nearest dog park, and while the dogs play, you and the owners can get to know each other over a hot drink. 

You’ve heard of hide and seek for kids, right? Well, who says it’s just for them? Try hiding a treat or favorite toy of your dog’s and make them come find you. If you have kids, this is a great game for the whole family to play. Get the kids to throw the dog’s favorite toy or treat to get them away while you all go hide. 

If you have snow, and your dog likes it too, just playing about in the yard makes a great gift (being careful all the while, of course). Make doggie and human snow angels and just playing around in the snow is a great bonding experience.

Some of the best gifts aren’t bought at a store but come from the heart. Just spending time with your dog and making sure they are happy can be a great gift, especially if you’re low on funds for Christmas shopping.

When in Doubt, Ask for Help

Your dog’s safety and health are very important! During this time of the year, there can be many things that you might not be sure of, like treats and toys etc., and that’s okay. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or an expert about any dog-related items you’re not sure about. Asking for help makes sure you and your dog have a happy and healthy holiday season! 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Pets and Gift Giving During the Holiday Season

There is so much on our minds these days. Finding appropriate gifts for friends and family, organizing and attending parties are at the forefront of our thoughts. Among all the wonderful gifts and good wishes being exchanged during this time of year, occasionally kittens and puppies are also presented to a loved one. What could be a better gift than a cute little fur-ball to an animal lover friend! While the thought behind the idea is a very positive, heart-warming one, it must be remembered that adopting or owning a pet can be a very personal decision.

Pet ownership is a commitment of many years and involves fulfillment; yet time-consuming activities such as socializing the pet, daily care, training (for dogs, and yes it includes house training), veterinary and grooming appointments, etc. Young puppies and kittens demand a ton of time and effort devoted towards them. This is generally while adjusting your lifestyle to that of the new member in the family. Due to careers, school, or relationships, some people may not be prepared to commit to such a huge responsibility – no matter how much they adore animals. Friends that have had previous pets may not be prepared to train a young pet from scratch. Or, worse, your gift may turn them into first-time pet owners, with them having no clue about what they are getting into!

Also, dogs and cats (or rabbits, or fish) make very different types of pets. Each has its own specific needs and personalities. A friend may have been a long-term cat parent, but their home and lifestyle may not support having a dog as part of the family. The same holds for different breeds within an animal species.

So, if you are planning to gift a pet to your friend or family member, be sure to initiate a conversation with them before deciding on the gift. It is also important to talk about what species and breed best fits the home. The most likely time for pets being adopted and finding loving, forever homes is when they are still very young. It would be a shame if the pet adopted by you for a friend does not get the absolute best care and attention it deserves.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian – Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby. BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

 

P.S.: this is my top 5 list of gift ideas for a pet-lover on your Christmas list:

  1. Grooming date for their pet (ideally at their regular groomer)
  2. A commitment to housesitting their pet on their next weekend getaway
  3. Gift card from pet store
  4. Appointment with a pet adoption home to explore the possibility of pet adoption
  5. Bag of their pets’ favorite treats (never goes wrong)

Ask an Expert: Abnormal Dog Nails

Q: My dog has been losing nails and some nails are bent out of shape. Why could his nails be abnormal?

A: Dogs that have an active lifestyle or dogs walked on pavement generally wear their nails short.

Nails that are prone to fall easily or appear abnormal in shape and size are signs of medical problems in dogs. The most common condition causing misshapen or broken nails is called Lupoid onychodystrophy. This condition may be due to multiple underlying causes and is easily treated using a combination of medication, dietary management, and supplements.

Other common causes for such symptoms include nail bed infections due to bacteria or fungus.

Happy ‘Doggieween’: Halloween Treats for Dogs Do’s and Don’ts

Halloween can be fun for dogs too, if they’ll let you dress them up. But if they get into the “human” treats, it can mean an emergency trip to the vet. There are treats you can give your pooch, but be wary of the ingredients. Any kind of human Halloween treat, candy, etc. are forbidden for dogs! Lollipop sticks can get stuck in their throat and candy wrappers can cause obstructions.

This is a good time to use that obedience training. Using the command “Leave it,” if you spot your pup sniffing around; this command can be especially helpful if any candy or chocolate lands on the floor. If you see your dog ingest something they shouldn’t have, call your vet or poison control immediately!

Halloween Treat Don’ts

Carefully read the ingredients in all treats you plan on giving to your dog. Sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis, and symptoms may not show for about 2-4 days. You may not know it, but raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs too.

The artificial sweetener, xylitol, that is in a lot of “sugar-free” treats can cause sudden drop in blood sugar, subsequent loss of coordination, and seizures if ingested by your dog. Some treats contain white chocolate, which is still chocolate and a big no-no for dogs. Theobromine is the main ingredient in chocolate, which is harmless to humans but toxic to dogs.

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

Should you see any of these signs in your pup take them to your vet straightaway!

Halloween Treat Do’s

All treats for your dog should be only given for training purposes or on special occasions. Don’t let treats replace their meals and don’t let your dog overindulge on the good treats. If your dog has allergies or is on a special hypoallergenic diet, talk to your vet about what you can give them for treat options.

Don’t forget, your dog can have treats that are beneficial to their health. Dogs can get bad breath, plaque, tartar formation, and tooth decay. You can give them dental treats that cleans their teeth, freshens their breath, and controls plaque and tartar.

Don’t forget their coat and skin either! There are treats you can give your pooch that contain Omega-3 fatty-acids, which are good for their skin and coat health.

For pups who prefer really crunchy treats, feel free to give them bite-sized pieces of raw carrots! There are other certain fruits and vegetables you can give your dog too.

Halloween Treat Ideas for Dogs

Not only can you find treats in the store to buy for your pooch, but you can also find many recipes to make homemade dog treats, including online. It can be fun to make treats from scratch and there are some that you can enjoy eating too along with your pooch.

Pumpkin is an okay treat for dogs, but only in small portions. Unless your pup is allergic (which is unlikely, as pumpkin is not a common allergen), baked pumpkin makes a good treat idea. Peanut butter is also a tasty option (again, be sure it’s only given to your dog in small amounts). There are plenty of peanut butter-flavoured treats you can find in the store!

Speaking of treats, it may be handy to keep a bag of dog treats handy during this time of the year. That way, your pup will not miss out on the festivities and they receive treats that are appropriate and safe.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Prevention Tips for a Safe and Happy Halloween for Your Cat

October is a busy time of year, isn’t it? Not only do we have Thanksgiving to celebrate (for us Canadians, anyway), but also Halloween! We get turkey and treats in the same month. How cool is that?

However, we must remember that not everyone is enthusiastic about this time of the year. In this case, we’re talking about our feline friends. Halloween may mean trick-or-treating to some, but Halloween for your cat could mean being alarmed by the sound of fireworks going off, fake cobwebs to get tangled in, and even treats that can make them sick. Not to mention just because you think kitty looks adorable in a witch’s hat, that doesn’t mean your kitty will agree!

There are all sorts of problems you may not realize can be a hazard to your kitty as well as to you, the owner, on this holiday. That’s why we’re here to help. If you want to keep your kitty happy and safe this Halloween, here are our top prevention tips to do just that.

Scenario #1: Escaping from Home

If your door is constantly opening and closing as you give out candy to trick-or-treaters, your cat may feel tempted to escape from your home. On a night when lots of people in costume are walking around and traffic grows heavier at night, it can be frightening to find out your cat has run away from home—and in the dark, it’s almost impossible to find them.

Solution: Prevent your kitty from having the chance to escape by keeping them in a room away from the front door; a bedroom should do fine. This can be their haven for the evening, complete with food, water, a clean litter box, toys, and bedding. It’s a good idea as well to check up on your kitty occasionally while they’re shut inside of the room so they don’t feel too lonely or unhappy.

If you know your cat is definitely going to want to escape, have them wear a collar with identification or get a microchip or a tattoo placed on your cat by your veterinarian. If your cat escaping is a huge concern, consider overnight cat boarding as an option instead, or not indulging in trick or treating.

Scenario #2: Noise Phobia

Halloween is fun for everyone unless loud noises are a problem…and for cats, that’s a big one! Noise phobia is exactly what you think it is: the fear of loud noises. Cats are exceptionally sensitive to sound given how excellent their hearing can be. If your cat has noise phobia, they may reveal the following signs: excessive pacing, shivering, hiding, and even drooling in some cases. If you’re having guests over for a Halloween party, too many people and noises in the room will definitely be too much for kitty to handle (especially if your guests love cats!).

Solution: Remember that room we mentioned before? Try giving your kitty a specific box or a designated area where they can hide in. Cats prefer to be as far away from stressful situations and loud sounds as possible, and tend to go into hiding when they’re stressed, in pain, or scared. If their noise phobia is especially bad, try giving them other solutions such as a natural pheromone collar or spray, anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your veterinarian, and of course a lot of TLC!

In the case of guests, it may be disappointing to let them know kitty won’t be joining them. Of course it’s okay to let your kitty socialize or let them come out of the room if there are a few people, but again, keep an eye on them in case your guests leave the front door open or if they’re getting overly anxious. Don’t force your kitty to be social if they don’t want to be. When all the excitement has died down, that’s when you can let your cat out of the room to roam around as usual.

Scenario #3: Black Cats

We love kitties of all sizes and colours; black cats are no exception! The black cat is one of many iconic Halloween symbols; in pictures you either see them riding on a broomstick with a witch or lying next to a jack ‘o lantern. Unfortunately black cats still have quite the reputation for being perceived as bad luck, and even the sweetest, gentlest black cat may fall victim to pranks being pulled on them, or worse. If a black cat ends up escaping out of the house, they’re as good as invisible outside at night, making them prone to all sorts of dangers.

Solution: Like with any cat, if your cat’s coat is black or dark-coloured, you should keep them situated in a room in your home safe from the outside. You can also make sure their collar is bright and colourful (neon yellow would work best, or a reflective neon orange if you want to be festive and safe!) so that they are more visible in the event they do escape outside. Again, a microchip and ID will work wonders if your black cat gets lost.

Scenario #4: Decorations

As the saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat” and nothing makes a cat more curious than the different Halloween decorations on display in your home. Fake cobwebs, streamers, lit jack o’ lanterns…all these things are likely to cause kitty to try to play with them. This is a problem in many ways; most Halloween decorations are made of foil and plastic, all of which spell trouble if your kitty wants to nibble! Fake cobwebs in particular can be a problem because the ones you buy in the store are usually made of cotton balls or strings, or spray from a bottle—all of which are toxic or dangerous to cats. And don’t get us started on the dangers of cats and lit candles! Thankfully, there is also the saying “Cats have nine lives!”

Solution: Try getting creative with your decorations this year by skipping the cotton cobwebs and go for rubber instead; avoid them altogether if your kitty is prone to chewing on certain types of objects as chewing on rubber would be just as big of a hazard. For your jack o’ lantern, ditch the candle this time and use an LED light you can find at the store. If you simply cannot live without decorations, make sure they are all out of your cat’s reach and away from their climbable perches. You can distract kitty from any decoration by giving them their regular toys.

Scenario #5: Treats

Treats that are okay for kids and adults on Halloween night are more like tricks if your kitty gets hold of them! Plastic wrap has that crinkly sound that cats can’t resist since it’s also the sound accompanying their bag of cat treats. Batting those wrappers around could lead to swallowing them by accident, and that’s not something you want to deal with! And you may think dogs are the only ones who go after chocolate, but unfortunately so too do some cats, and it’s just as toxic to either pet.

Solution: Basic supervision should be enough to deter your kitty from nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for them. If you have kids, teach them about the sorts of treats that are good versus not good for their cat so in the event they want to spoil kitty, they won’t give them their own treats by accident! Store away any treats wrapped in plastic in the cupboard that you think your cat will be tempted to snack on. Keep any treats for trick-or-treaters sealed; a mixing bowl with a lid should work just fine. As for good treats, only offer the kind you know are good for kitty such as dental chews or other vet-recommended treats.

Scenario #6: Costumes

Like we said before, just because a witch’s hat looks cute in photo ops doesn’t mean your kitty will agree with you. Trying to dress them in costume may work for some kitties, but it all really depends on their personality or comfort level with foreign objects being placed on them. Most of the time once you put a hat on their head, they will do everything in their power to get it off of them! And if you’re thinking of dressing them up as ghosts, please don’t; not all kitties like being wrapped in sheets or towels. The idea may seem cute, but in actuality not being able to see is terrifying to them.

Solution: Ditch the costume ideas altogether if your cat is uncomfortable with wearing one. Opt instead for a festive collar. That way your cat will be able to see where they’re going and they won’t be hindered from moving around. A bowtie is okay (so long as it’s not too tight) and can make for some cute photos!

Halloween for your cat should be fun, not stressful. We hope our prevention tips ensure you both have a great time. Happy Halloween!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Tips for an Enjoyable Halloween Night for Pets

Halloween is almost here! Costumes, parties, and plans for the day are likely already in place, including costumes for our furry friends. It is becoming quite popular to dress up your dog and the occasional cat in addition to the traditional partying and trick-or-treating on Halloween night. It is an enjoyable time and being socially inclined, dogs (and the odd cat) are happy to be involved in the fun. New commercials on TV appear to encourage pets go out trick-or-treating with kids!

Again, all fun and enjoyment with the right pet, but remember there are pets (as are humans) that may not be lining up to be part of the dressing up or socialization.

Pet families know their pets the best and it is important to assess how involved your pet may like to be during Halloween, or what the families’ overall plans should be. Addressing the following should help you make this a happy Halloween for the whole family:

  1. Pets can get anxiety from firecrackers (noise phobia) – skipping fireworks or boarding your pet in a safe, quiet kennel for fireworks nights are ideas to consider.
  2. Taking your pet for trick-or-treating may increase their chances of ingesting chocolate or candy, which can be toxic to them. Adult supervision for both your child and your pet is advised.
  3. If trick-or-treating with pets, putting a leash on should help keep them safe.
  4. Strangers can be wary of unknown pets, no matter how friendly your pooch is!
  5. If you are giving out candy to kids or will have many visitors, ensure your pet will not escape with the frequently opening front door.

Once safety for everyone is taken in to account, all you have to decide is if your pet will be a superhero, a hot dog, a prisoner, or will simply skip the dressing up!

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.