Fall is a beautiful time of year that is always welcome after enduring long hot summer months. It comes with many seasonal changes, lots of colorful decorations, and a very popular and highly celebrated holiday. It can also come with added stress for you and your pet due to some of these changes; but that doesn’t need to be the case. Being aware of potential stressors and toxicities could save you and your companions from unnecessary stress, as well as an unplanned amount of time and money spent at the ER. In an effort to increase awareness and decrease the risk of exposure, we have compiled a list of popular toxicities that your pet could possibly run into this time of year. Here is Mason Dixon Animal Emergency Hospital’s guide to potential dangers of Fall and Halloween.
The most obvious on the list of toxicities associated with Halloween is candy. Theobromine is the toxic ingredient in chocolate and the concentration of such varies with different kinds of chocolate. For example, dark chocolate has the highest amount of Theobromine while white chocolate has the lowest amount. Toxic doses vary by case which is why it’s always recommended to call a Veterinarian or a pet poison hotline if you suspect ingestion has occurred. Even if your pet has not reached a toxic dose, it could still cause gastric upset and require medical attention. Some chocolates also contain caffeine which could trigger a negative reaction as well. It may take several hours for symptoms of chocolate ingestion to develop and they can last as long as several days. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, increased heart rate, and restlessness. Don’t wait for your pet to start acting sick before taking action, as severe cases can cause seizures, muscle tremors, or even heart failure.
Not only is chocolate in certain doses toxic to your animals, but the wrappers could become a problem as well. If a significant amount of wrappers is ingested and not expelled from the stomach before the digestion process begins, they could potentially cause a blockage. In some instances, this requires surgical removal. If you know or suspect that your pet got into the candy stash, it is recommended to have them seen by a veterinarian right away.
While not toxic to your pet, there are other potential stressors that Trick-or-Treating may bring. Be conscious of the amount of strangers that will be coming to your home, especially since a lot of these strangers will be in costumes that may include masks, hats, or beards. Some dogs are sensitive to this to begin with, and that fear will be amplified with an increase in exposure to such triggers in one night. Also keep in mind that the ringing of a doorbell or people constantly entering and exiting the home may be additional triggers. Be sure to keep a close eye on your pet’s whereabouts since there will also be an increase in traffic through the neighborhood at night and pets may, for a number of reasons, run out of the house unexpectedly.
While pumpkins and corn are considered non-toxic to cats and dogs, anything consumed in large amounts could cause GI upset or in some cases, a blockage (especially depending on what part is ingested, like the stem, seeds, or corn cob). However, if left out long enough, pumpkins may grow mold. Mold, even in small amounts, can have an impact on your pet’s nervous system and most certainly warrants a trip to the vet office.
Other seasonal toxicities to look out for include mushrooms, acorns, crabapples, and chrysanthemums.
Certain mushroom species are extremely toxic and have a severe impact on the liver, GI system, or neurological system. Unfortunately, where we are located in Pennsylvania, there are several toxic species of mushroom which are not always easily identified, nor is the damage caused by them easily treated. It is best to avoid letting your pet eat things off of the ground when possible, especially since mushrooms can appear very quickly and at random. If you suspect that your pet ate mushrooms, it is best to have them seen by a vet immediately.
Chrysanthemums, while considered a mild to moderate toxicity, can still make your pet sick when consumed in a toxic dose. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and ataxia.
Acorns can cause GI upset if ingested. If ingested in large enough amounts, they also have the potential to cause an intestinal blockage.
Crabapples contain cyanide, which if ingested can cause severe and sometimes fatal consequences. However, cyanide toxicity is unlikely to occur in dogs and cats since special conditions must occur for the cyanide to be released. The seeds or pit must be chewed and ingested and the leaves must be stressed or wilted in order for the cyanide to be released. If left rotting on the ground, the fruit will be allowed to ferment and that could cause additional risk to your pet.
Please stay vigilant and remain conscious of what your pet is eating outside, especially this time of year when the risk of ingesting something toxic is increased. If you have questions about toxicities or want to learn more, please visit ASPCA.org for additional and more thorough resources. And as always, please call your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic if you ever have any concerns about your pets. Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy with your pets, be sure to keep them safe while doing so!