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Monday, October 10, 2005

Keeping your pets safe during October

Halloween is traditionally full of candy, costumes and trick-or-treating for children and their families, but many people are unaware of the potential dangers pets face throughout the month of October. While many people like to include their pets in the festivities, Halloween is one holiday that can threaten the safety,and possibly life, of family friends. From ingesting toxic food, candywrappers or decorations, being traumatized by sudden noises, to exposure or harmful pranks, owners are encouraged to be aware of how their pet's safety could be at risk.

"Candy, especially chocolate, can be most harmful for dogs," said Todd Tams, DVM, DACVIM, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for VCA Animal Hospitals. "Even small amounts of theobromine, the key ingredient in chocolate, can quickly induce vomiting, choking, diarrhea, damage to internal organs, and potentially lead to death. If your pet is exhibiting some unusual symptoms, and you suspect that they may have ingested chocolate, the best course of action is to take them immediately to your local veterinarian for prompt care," he added.

Even the smallest amounts of chocolate, depending on the size of the dog, can be extremely harmful. Other candies, not just chocolate, should be kept out of a pet's reach. Wooden sticks from caramel apples if chewed and swallowed, can cause serious damage to internal organs, and gum and other chewy candy can cause pets to choke.

As the witches, ghouls and goblins of the neighborhood approach the front door, many pets can experience an increase in stress levels from the commotion and loud noises. A pet can perceive aggression by excited trick-or-treaters, which could potentially lead to lashing out or biting of strangers. Masks and costumes are not easily recognizable and many pets have been known to become protective and aggressive when surprised or scared by unusual and threatening behavior.

Although it can be tempting to take a pet along on Halloween, pets should not accompany families or children on trick-or-treating excursions because they can become easily frightened, harassed, injured, stolen and even killed. Black cats, especially, should bekept indoors throughout the month of October, as they are often victims of pranks that are not always harmless.

Other ways of celebrating the holiday should be taken into consideration if pets are around. Burning candles from jack-o-lanterns spark curiosity to many animals and serious burns, or even a fire could occur if within a pet's reach. Decorations such as faux spiderwebs and electrically wired lights can cause serious risks if found. Additionally, as cute as they are, pet costumes may include hazardous materials if swallowed by our four-legged friends. Many of them contain rubber bands, string or ribbon and pieces of plastic that are not easily digestible, causing intestinal damage.

"To prevent injuries or trauma during holiday traditions for pets, owners should implement simple safety guidelines," explained Tams. "Placing candy and trick-or-treat bags out of reach will ensure pets aren't digesting toxic foods. Keeping pets safe and secure in a comfortable, familiar room while passing out candy is the best way to avoid an unwelcome incident.

"Additionally, pets are much better off at home during Halloween outings, preventing unnecessary fright and the potential for pranks. Ensuring decorations and burning candles are strictly out of reach will also keep pets healthy, safe and happy," he added.

VCA Antech, Inc. (Nasdaq:WOOF), operates the largest network of freestanding, full-service animal hospitals and diagnostic laboratories across the country and employs more than 1,400 qualified veterinarians at more than 375 animal hospitals in 38 states. VCA Animal Hospitals offer a full range of general medical and surgical services for companion animals, as well as specialized treatments including oncology, ophthalmology, cardiology and neurology. Dedicated to the provision of compassionate and comprehensive veterinary care, VCA also provides advanced diagnostic services.


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