By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record October 24, 2009

There is already a chill in the air, as Fall has finally arrived. Plans for spooky festivities have begun  Keep your pets safe by keeping the following guidelines in mind.

Pet proof your Halloween decorations. Some items can be harmful if chewed or eaten by your pets. Make sure to keep decorations out of reach, especially any items with small pieces such as spiders that can be easily swallowed.

Please take care to cover electrical cords, or wind them up as short as possible. Both dogs and cats can get electrocuted by chewing on cords. Electrocution can result in severe organ and tissue damage, and even death.

If you dress your pet in a costume, make sure that the materials doesn't fit too tightly. Also make sure no material comes in direct contact with your companion's eyes. Supervise your canines and felines in costume to make sure they are not eating part of their wardrobe.   

Keep your bags and bowls of candy out of reach of your canine and feline companions. Candy can be harmful to pets, especially chocolate. Theobromine is the chemical that causes problems, and dark chocolate is more harmful because it contains higher levels of this drug. Chocolate is not well metabolized by animals, and the results add up over time. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, anxiousness, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death. Other candy can upset your animal's stomach as well. Don't let guests feed people food to your animals. Keep it fun by providing your canine and felines pet safe treats from your local pet store.

Don't leave your pets outside in the days surrounding Halloween, especially cats. Unfortunately there are people who will perform evil deeds on unsuspecting felines; and black cats are especially at risk. I have heard horror stories and seen several incidences of cats being burned, cut, and killed at this time of year.

Make sure any pets that do live outdoors have adequate shelter to stay warm as the nights get colder. Check water bowels often to make sure the water doesn't freeze.

Your canines and felines may not enjoy visitors. If your pets get stressed with lots of company, consider keeping your companions in a back room where they can stay relaxed.  You can discuss the possibility of sedatives for your pets with your veterinarian. If this is not enough, think about not hosting trick-or-treaters at your home.

I wish all of you and your canines and felines a safe Halloween.