The nights are getting chilly, the leaves are falling, the kids are back to school, and it'll soon be Halloween. What a great time of year!!! No doubt about it, Halloween can be a scary time for pets. As much as you and your children want to include them in your own celebrations, remember that pets really don't understand what's going on around them. Although, involving your pet in your Halloween activities can be a lot of fun, there are several situations to be aware of. Is Junior feeding Rex Halloween candy without knowing that chocolate is a toxin for dogs? You may need to protect your small critters from the unwanted contact by trick-or-treaters that come a-knockin' at your door. And be aware that Patches may try to eat the empty candy wrappers in the trash can. Or escape out the front door. Taking the proper precautions to prevent any Halloween hassles can save you and your pet a lot of trouble. Read on for further tips on how you can provide a safe, yet spook-tacular Halloween for your and your pets!

Cancel the candy! Youíre probably munching down yourself as you hand it out to Trick or Treaters, and your pet will be looking up at you with those great, big, loving eyes. RESIST!!! For pets, chocolate is a very dangerous, tasty toxin. It contains a compound called theobromine, which, like caffeine, is dangerous to dogs and cats when eaten in large quantities. Baking chocolate, with nearly nine times more theobromine than milk chocolate, is particularly dangerous, but either kind can cause problems. A toxic dose of theobromine for the average 20-pound dog is about 1,000 milligrams -- the amount found in 28 ounces of baking chocolate. However, as little as a Tootsie Roll in a 100-pound dog can be fatal. To be safe, keep all chocolate away from your dog or cat! If you're not sure how much he ate, call your vet immediately for advice.

Your front door will be opening and closing a great deal and it is possible that your cat or dog may attempt to escape or become quite frightened by the ghosts and goblins. One of the most important things to consider is to keep your pet identified! Whether or not your cat or dog needs a license, get the animal an ID tag with your name and phone number on it. You can be fined for having an unlicensed pet, but the consequences may be much worse if they are lost with no identification.

So, you found a great pet costume, and Fido or Fluffy really love being dressed up, or adds just the right touch to your child's costume? OK, if he has to go along Trick or Treating, it's best to keep the pet on a short leash, away from other animals or children that he doesn't know. (If Fido or Fluffy HATES being dressed up--don't force the issue just because you think it's cute.) Be sure that the pet can walk, see and pant in his costume (not to mention, being able to respond to the calls of nature), and put reflective tape on both his costume and your child's. Do a "dress rehearsal" to assure yourself that your child can successfully juggle the animal's leash, his own treat bag and costume and interacting with his friends.

If your dog or cat is going to be accompanying you and your kids around the neighborhood, make sure you use a leash! Keep your pet under control. Nothing's more frightening than losing a pet in a strange place, or having her dart into traffic. To be absolutely safe, always attach the leash before you open the door. A leash is a great way to make sure that your pet stays by your side. However, make sure that you have control and are not being pulled. Leash pulling is easy to prevent if you start training your puppy early! If you are at all concerned about not being able to control your dog, leave them home!!!

Make sure meal time comes before trick-or-treat time. Is Rex waiting for the candy to be thrown into his mouth rather than your kids' candy bag? To avoid having your pet be tempted by the abundance of candy on Halloween, feed your pet before the trick-or-treating begins. If your dog or cat is full, they won't be as tempted to ask for more food. If the begging persists, it could reflect habits that are present in your home. If you feed your pet table scraps while you're eating, there's a surefire chance that you've encouraged your pet to beg. Your pet will come to expect his share when you sit down to eat, and if your kids are rummaging through their trick-or-treat bag on the dinner table, you can bet that Rex is going to be begging for some candy. To combat begging, consistency is the key. If you are consistent about both the amount of pet food you give your pet and when you give it, you'll greatly lessen the chances that he'll beg or scavenge for food. Another tip is to feed your animal pet food, not people food.

If your kids want your cat to share the fun of Halloween treats, try offering any of these treats, instead of candy, as a Halloween special: a dollop of canned tuna in oil; two tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half; an ounce or so of meat loaf; two or three sauteed chicken livers; two or three shrimp, cooked or raw; one-quarter cup boned boiled or baked chicken. Remember, these treats are for special occasions and should not be a part of your cat's regular diet! For further precaution, consult your vet before presenting your cat with the treats.

To include your bird in the Halloween festivities, honey sticks, which consist of the usual pellets and seeds held together by coagulated honey, make a great treat. Give your parrot a honey stick, too. Or tempt him with more creative fruit treats, such as kiwi fruit (washed twice to remove even the slightest traces of pesticides) and strawberries cut into small chunks.

If you want to give your gerbil or hamster something special on Halloween, try a small dried cob of corn or a honey stick. Rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters may not like honey sticks (or anything else) better than their usual food, but it's fun to watch them eat these treats. Guinea pigs live to eat, so any offering is a treat. Still, if you want something truly special, give your pet one-half cup of one of those fancy pre-washed salad green mixes. Look for one that's heavy on the darker greens and lighter on the lettuce (which has little nutritional value).

With all the extra candy in the house, it is probable that your pet may find itself trying to digest a wrapper. When a cat gets into something that's supposed to be off-limits, she's likely to swallow it whole. This, of course, presents other problems, but it's unlikely to lead to choking. By contrast, a dog can get into serious trouble when trying to chew or swallow a foreign object. If your dog starts to choke, try to open the animal's jaws and look for the object that's blocking the airway. If possible, pull the object out of the dog's mouth. (Be careful to avoid being bitten.) If you can't remove the object, call the vet immediately; this is an emergency.

One thing to be aware of while trick-or-treating is that some children may have laser toys that are part of their costume, which could be dangerous to your petís eyes.

Be careful of pets around a lit pumpkin. Pets may knock it over and cause a fire. Curious pets also run the risk of getting burned.

If you are expecting trick-or-treaters to enter your home, you may want to protect children or your pet from unwanted contact with each other. All right, your pet is not afraid of strangers at the door, but many children are afraid or even allergic to pets. You might want to establish a "dogs only" area where your dog can keep away from sharp pokes and too-hearty thumps without resorting to nips and growls of his own. For your fish, install a tight-fitting screen that clicks into place on top of the fish tank. These screens keep people from dipping in their fingers to terrify the fish or pull out seaweed, snails or gravel. Don't forget to keep gerbils, hamsters, fish, water turtles and frogs out of reach. Young children might squeeze the tiny animals and hurt them.

If your pooch is inclined to bark at the sound of the doorbell, Halloween night will be a nightmare for you! Some dogs seem to think that the doorbell or a knock on the door is their signal to start barking, so condition your dog to look forward to the ringing of the bell or knocking of the door without the vocal hysterics. A common reason that a dog barks is he sees something that frightens or intimidates him, so be sure to expect your dog to be extra vocal on Halloween night if he sees any masked trick-or-treaters.

In addition to the doorbell, there are other sudden changes in the house - strangely pitched music, weird noises, odd clothing and lots of excitement. For human, scary at Halloween is good - but for our pets, it may just be scary. Your dog may not understand the difference between good scary and bad scary and may try protecting you from those creatures at the door.

Is Rex sporting his Scooby-Doo costume, but afraid to come out from under the bed and show it? Noise anxiety may be the reason he's not enjoying the Halloween party. While cats may be startled by loud noises, they don't get panicky like dogs. If your dog hears fireworks, thunder or other loud noises, he may be inclined to crawl into small spaces, such as under a bed or desk. A dog's hearing is extremely sensitive, and noise anxiety can be a resounding problem. Dogs have crashed through plate glass windows and fallen a couple of stories after hearing a thunderbolt. Create some comfortable quarters for your dog to escape to if you anticipate any loud noises.

A Very Important Bonus Tip! Keep Felix Inside! Halloween is a very dangerous time for cats. Especially for black cats! Most adoption shelters don't give away cats for adoption during the month of October to avoid possible cat abuse during Halloween. To avoid having your cat stolen and possibly tortured, make sure he is safe inside your house. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

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