Halloween Dangers for Dogs & Cats

Halloween is a fun holiday for people of all ages to dress up, trick or treat and maybe scare a friend or two. But the noises, decorations and costumes can frighten our pets. Here’s a few tips for keeping cats and dogs safe during Halloween:

  1. Pet costumes – Make sure pet costumes do not contain dyes or paints that are toxic if ingested. Costumes should fit the pet comfortably, allowing them to walk and lie down. Check around the neck and legs for elastic bands that may cut of circulation or make it difficult to breathe. Never use rubber bands! Also, make sure your pet can’t chew off and swallow their costume. Cats love to eat costume jewelry and ribbons while dogs favor the fake skeletons.
  2. Costumes – Pets often find costumes scary. People they know suddenly become monsters when wearing a costume with a mask over their face. A normally social pet may bite. As Dr. Kathleen Shaw wrote in her article, Halloween can be Spooky for Pets, “Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he doesn’t bite any guests.”
  3. Decorations – Halloween decorations can be scary as well as dangerous for pets. Fake skeletons may be too realistic for some dogs to resist. Many cats find the fake cobwebs enticing. Eating these items may obstruct the animal’s gastrointestinal system leading to expensive surgery to remove the decorations.
  4. Jack-o-lanterns – Keep all pets away from jack-o-lanterns. Pets, especially cats, are drawn to the flickering light inside. After Halloween, I see many pets with singed whiskers. The battery operated candles don’t cause fires but are highly toxic if ingested. I saw a lab who suffered greatly after eating a pumpkin with a battery operated light inside.
  5. Electric cords – Keep pets away from cords to prevent electrocution.
  6. Accidental escape – The loud noises, scary costumes and open doors for trick-or-treaters lead to many lost pets during Halloween. I recommend letting your pet sit this holiday out with some treats in the back bedroom away from all the action. Play music to distract from unusual noises. Bring all animals indoors. Even when pets are in secure outdoor enclosures, there is a greater risk of theft with all the people coming and going. Please take extra care with black dogs and cats. Over my career, I have seen horrible animal abuse associated with this holiday – particularly with animals whose fur is black.
  7. Candy – Candy possesses a variety of dangers for pets. First, there is the danger of chocolate toxicity from having too many fun bars. Second, foil wrappers and lollipop sticks may causes intestinal obstruction. Third, many candies contain the artificial sweetener xylitol that causes life-threatening drops in blood sugar. One stick of sugar-free gum can kill.

With a little planning, Halloween can be fun for the entire family. Please follow these tips to make sure everyone has a good time. Happy Halloween!



Shaw, Kathleen. ‘Halloween can be Spooky for Pets’, Veterinary Partners, VIN.com, 2013.

Campylobactor Infections After Contact With Puppies

A multi-state outbreak of Campylobacter has occurred in people associated with puppies from Petland as well as private breeders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “a total of 55 people with laboratory-confirmed infections or symptoms consistent with Campylobacter infection who live in Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming have been linked to this outbreak.” The organism is spread through the fecal-oral route which means a person ingests feces from an infected dog. Clinical signs in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Some dogs may be asymptomatic carriers which means they shed the organism without having any signs of illness. Humans often have severe stomach cramps in addition to fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms usually last 5-7 days.

Unfortunately, this strain of Campylobacter is resistant to many antibiotics commonly prescribed for this disease including tetracycline, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin and erythromycin. This makes it a dangerous bacteria for all dogs and people, most especially those with compromised or immature immune systems.

The Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, of which I am a member, encourages people to take the following precautions:

  • “Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after each encounter with the dog, their food, or waste.
  • Pick up and dispose of pet waste immediately, and disinfect the area, especially in areas where children might play.
  • Thoroughly clean areas occupied by sick pets and keep them isolated from other pets in the house.
  • Don’t let pets lick areas around owner’s mouth, face, or areas with broken skin.”
  • In addition, seek medical attention immediately for all sick dogs and/or humans with gastro-intestinal disease.


-‘Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Campylobacter Infections Linked to Contact with Pet Store Puppies’, Outbreak Advisory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, posted Oct. 3, 2017.

-‘Zoonotic Disease Health Advisory: Multistate Outbreak of Human Campylobacter Infections Linked to Pet Store Puppies’ Arizona Veterinary News, AZVMA, October 2017.


National Veterinary Technicians Week begins October 15th.

Happy Veterinary Technicians Week!

October 15th through the 21st is National Veterinary Technicians Week, a time to celebrate the hard-working men and women who take care of our beloved pets. Veterinary technicians require training in a variety of areas in order to do their jobs. Here’s are partial list of all the things they do:

  • Radiology – Take dental and whole body X-rays
  • Surgical Assistance – Set up the operating room, help the veterinarians during surgery and clean-up after surgery is done
  • Anesthesia – Monitor patients during surgery
  • Record Keeping – Controlled substances, medical notes, etc.
  • Laboratory – Collect and process samples
  • Client Education – Help people care for their pets
  • Maintain & Sterilize Equipment
  • Assist Veterinarians – Restrain animals for exams, blood draws and treatments
  • Administer Treatments – Give injections, clean wounds and a variety of other things
  • Phlebotomy – Draw blood for testing and place intravenous catheters for treatments
  • Comfort Patients – This is the most important job of a veterinary technician. When pets come into the hospital, they are often frightened. Veterinary technicians provide a soothing voice and soft touch to reassure the scared patient. Many pets will pick one of the technicians as their substitute ‘mom or dad’. I know it is surprising, but dogs and cats rarely pick the veterinarian for this role!

Thank you for dedicating your lives to helping animals. To my technicians, I am so grateful for all three of you.  Veterinary technicians are the best!

Leptospirosis Risk Increased in Flooded Areas of Texas and Florida

Health officials in Texas and Florida are warning people to avoid standing water. The obvious dangers include poisonous snakes, toxins, alligators and downed electrical lines. The less obvious reasons include infectious diseases like leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a disease carried by rats and rodents. The infective form called a spirochete is transmitted through the urine or tissues of infected animals. Dogs and humans are infected after drinking contaminated water or touching contaminated soil and then transferring the spirochete to food. The flooding from hurricane Harvey and Irma have spread the organism throughout the hard hit areas of Texas and Florida.

Symptoms in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and extreme abdominal pain. The abdominal pain results from inflammation of the liver and kidneys. Even with treatment, some animals will die. The survivors often sustain damage to the kidneys and liver that require lifelong treatment. Symptoms in people include vomiting, fever and diarrhea. As with dogs and other animals, leptospirosis may cause severe liver and kidney damage that can be fatal.

Prevention is the key to preventing leptospirosis. There is a vaccination available for this disease in dogs. Initially, the dog is given two doses two to three weeks apart then annually. In addition to vaccination, avoid contact with the spirochete by limiting your pet’s contact with wildlife,  no swimming in ponds or rivers and keep them away from sick animals. For humans, follow the guidelines listed for dogs as well as practice good hygiene. Wear gloves when cleaning up after your dog, disinfect any items that come into contact with urine and wash your hands thoroughly.

More information on leptospirosis can be found at  https://drnelsonsveterinaryblog.com/2016/04/leptospirosis-in-dogs/             as well as  www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis.