Halloween decorations, costumes, candy, trick-or-treating, and parties put kids and grown-ups in a festive mood. Unfortunately, spirited Halloween activities and little people dressed as ghosts and goblins may be scary and stressful to your pets. Here are a few tips to ensure that both children and pets have a happy Halloween.
An estimated half of pet owners dress their pets in Halloween costumes. Pumpkins and ladybugs seem to be favorites. If you plan to dress your dog or cat for Halloween, choose a safe well-fitting costume that allows your pet to breathe, see, hear, and move freely. Try the costume on a day or two before Halloween to get your pet's opinion. A few pets like the limelight and enjoy dressing up for Halloween. Others don't find the experience at all amusing. Most of our furry friends are happiest wearing only their birthday suits but don't mind a Halloween-themed neck bandanna.
Stow Halloween candies out of your pet's reach. The bowl of trick-or-treat goodies should be for human beggars only. Yummy people treats that contain chocolate and candies that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol are toxic to dogs and cats. Small amounts of either may cause vomiting, muscle tremors, or seizures while larger doses can be fatal. Make sure your children understand the danger of sharing their treats with their much-loved pet.
Candlelit carved pumpkins add to the Halloween festivities but can be dangerous for pets. If a lit jack-o-lantern is accidentally knocked over by a curious pet, he may be singed, receive a serious burn, or cause a fire. Decorations and lights with electric cords also pose a danger to pets. The cords are attractive chew toys to some pets but can cause life-threatening electric shock so must be kept out of your pet's reach.
Glow sticks and glow jewelry make kids visible on Halloween night, but they are not for your pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association says the liquid in the glow toys is not likely toxic, but it tastes really bad and causes pets to salivate excessively and act strangely.
Sensitive pets actually appreciate being excluded from the holiday activities. A dog crate, cat carrier, or quiet room is much preferred by most. If you choose to let your dog be part of the activities, keep him away from the door or place a baby gate in front of it to avoid an accidental escape. You can still dole out treats, but your pet cannot dash out into potential harm.
In the event that your pet does bolt, he should have an ID with his name, your name, phone number and address. A collar with tags is great for quick identification even if your pet has a microchip.
With a little care, you, your children, and your pets can have a happy and safe Halloween.
Sue Furman, Ph.D. has authored two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, and acupressure. Visit her at www.holistictouchtherapy.com.
A dog sees the word with his eyes, but his super sense of smell gives him a much more interesting and detailed picture. His moist spongy nose catches many scents that humans miss. Breathing and
smelling are two separate functions. Humans have only one air passageway for both.
The dog's nose is much more sophisticated. His two nostrils breathe independently, and he can even determine in which nostril an odor arrived. A fold of tissue just inside the dog's nose forms two pathways. Air for respiration takes one path and is sent to the lungs. About 12% of the air is meant for smelling and takes the other pathway where several hundred million special olfactory receptor cells detect the many scents as they pass by.
In both human and dog noses, air passes over a labyrinth of bony scroll-shaped plates, called turbinates. Scent receptor cells in the tissues that line the turbinates recognize odor molecules by their shape and send nerve signals to the brain for analysis. In humans, about 5 million scent receptors are concentrated in approximately one square inch or an area the size of a postage stamp.
If one could unfold the turbinates of a dog, they would cover about 60 square inches or the area the size of a sheet of typing paper. The dog's turbinates contain many millions of receptors. The actual number varies with the breed. It is estimated that a Dachshund has 125 million nerve endings that sense smells while a German Shepherd has 225 million and a Bloodhound tips the scale with 300 million scent receptors!
With so much information entering, it is not surprising that the percentage of a dog's brain specialized for analyzing scents is 40 times larger than that of a human, and his sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 more acute. You could smell a spritz of perfume in a room. A dog could detect the same spritz of perfume in an enclosed stadium and distinguish the ingredients.
Dogs have a second olfactory capability in the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson's organ located in the bottom of the nasal passage. It detects odorless pheromones that tell a dog if another dog or human is male or female, what they ate, where they have been, what they have touched, and if they are ready to mate. Human pheromones tell the dog if a person is stressed, ill, happy, or angry.
Dog noses have another unique feature. We exhale air out the same way it came in which forces out any incoming odors. Dogs exhale through the slits in the side of their nose so new aromas can enter the nostrils.
Humans see and hear a single moment. A dog's sense of smell allows him to perceive a story through time. His nose sees a whole world beyond our eyes.
Sue Furman, Ph.D. has authored two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, and acupressure. Visit her website at:
Halloween Cookies - Pumpkin Treats
Note: I cut the cookies in pumpkin shapes to amuse myself. My dogs like the treats in any shape.
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With a Ph.D. in Biological sciences from the University of Texas in Austin and a masters in Zoology from Southern Illinois University, Dr. Sue is devoted to the care and massaging of pets. Read her articles here.