Posted: October 12, 2011, 8:15 p.m. EDT
© Gina Cioli/BowTie
Decorations are just one of the dangers that small animal pets like this hamster could face during Halloween.
Ghosts, goblins, headless horsemen — some Halloween dangers are the stuff of legends and others are more real. Although most small animal pets are safely tucked away in a cage, playpen or critter-proofed room during Halloween and the days leading up to it, beware of the following real dangers.
1. Fire Danger
The use of candles increases dramatically around Halloween. Whether inside pumpkins or adding pumpkin, cinnamon or other holiday scents to the air, candles pop up all over. A curious ferret, rabbit, sugar glider or other small animal pet on the loose might get burned by the flame or knock over a lit candle and cause a fire. Be safe. If you use candles, light them only when your small animal pet is safely contained and has no access to the flame. And don't think that having a candle on a counter or table means it's safe from a small animal pet. Some small animal pets climb or glide, making them able to reach unexpected places.
2. Crush Danger
By definition, small animal pets are small, which can make them more difficult to see. Whenever a hedgehog, chinchilla, gerbil or other small animal pet is allowed time outside of its enclosure for play or exploration, it must be supervised and everyone in the household be made aware that the pet is on the loose. Otherwise, a pet might get stepped on, caught in a closing door or suffer other trauma. Holidays like Halloween make this rule especially important. People carrying decorations, wearing a costume or doing something else that reduces their field of vision are more apt to miss seeing a pet underfoot.
3. Treat Danger
Most small pet owners know that their pet should only eat treats made for it. Candy and other human junk food are No-Nos for small animal pets like rats, hamsters and guinea pigs. But that doesn't mean a pet won't try to get into a Halloween candy stash or munch on candy apples or fudge. Save your pet from itself by keeping all human treat sealed in containers or locked away in cupboards.
"Even small amounts of chocolate — particularly dark chocolate — can be toxic to our littlest family members," said Sandra Mitchell, DVM, DABVP (Feline Specialty and Exotic Companion Mammal Specialty) of Animal Medical Associates in Saco, Maine. "And it won't take very much to make them sick."
Jerry Murray, DVM, of the Animal Clinic of Farmers Branch near Dallas added to the warnings about candy. "High carbohydrate candy can cause major problems for rabbits, prairie dogs and ferrets with insulinomas."
4. Decoration Danger
Many people decorate to get into the spirit of the Halloween holiday. Decorations range from pumpkins to
door mats to streamers and more. Always be aware that your ferret, rabbit or other small animal pet might decide to chomp on these new additions to the décor — and that could result in an emergency trip to the veterinarian for GI upset or blockage.
Thinking of using a fog machine for effect? Keep your pet well away, or check with your veterinarian to determine whether it's safe for your pet to breathe the fog. If you opt to create fog using dry ice, be absolutely sure your small animal pet can't touch it.
Teresa Bartolotta posted a warning on the Ferrets magazine Facebook page that applies to many small animal pets. "Watch out for anything with feathers or rubber, even styrofoam. A lot of decorations can be deadly. Also the rubber sticky decorations that go on the window can be hazardous."
5. Door Danger
Doors are made to open and close, and both functions can cause trouble for a small animal pet. Opening is dangerous because a pet could escape to the outdoors, and closing is dangerous if a pet gets caught in the door and crushed. Trick-Or-Treaters and party-goers create numerous opportunities for danger if a small animal pet is on the loose. On Halloween or during a party, small animal pets do best safely tucked away in their habitat or a safe room away from the activity.
Meghan Simon reinforced this warning with her posting on the Ferrets magazine Facebook page, "Don't let your fuzz butts out with the door being opened constantly for trick-or-treaters."
6. Noise Danger
Spooky sounds and loud music might rule the night on Halloween. While these aren't obviously dangerous to small animal pets, they might cause stress to rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas or other critters. If the stress is severe, it might cause illness.
7. Other Pet Danger
You never know what costume people might show up in at a Halloween party. If someone arrives to your party with a dog, cat or other pet in tow, be aware that your pet should be behind a closed door in a safe room so that the visiting pet can't interact with your hedgehog, gerbil, rat or other small animal pet. The safe room has the added bonus of preventing party-goers from interacting with your pet, which might be overwhelming.
8. Costume Danger
If you choose to dress up your small animal pet for Halloween, keep its safety in mind. A pet should never be in costume when not supervised, a costume must never be binding and a costume should only be worn for a limited amount of time.
We asked visitors to the SmallAnimalChannel Facebook page and the Ferrets magazine Facebook page to give us their tips for Halloween safety. Dogs and cats seem more at risk than small animal pets, so several visitors warned that candy should be kept away from dogs or pups, as well as small animal pets. As Lori Schumacker warned, "Hide your candy; [my pets] would take one and run."
Lisa Blunt warned people to keep their black cats indoors. This echoes a caution from Dr. Mitchell, "Keep your 4-legged family members safely in the house in the week leading up to Halloween. I have seen several cases of animals who have been tortured and injured as Halloween pranks. Not at all funny — and sometimes fatal."
Gerald Stewart had a safety precaution for those who take their small animal pets on walks outside at night. "If the kids are out at night on a leash and harness, weave a 12 or 14 inch glow stick around the harness."
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