Halloween is more commonly known for cruel tricks than pet-friendly treats. Every October, Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital sees an increase in toxin ingestion, gastrointestinal obstruction, and pet-related accidents. For the dogs, cats, and owners affected by these holiday mishaps, Halloween fear is frighteningly real.
Keep your pet out of the candy dish and the emergency room this Halloween by learning what makes a safe pet treat, and which common ingredients can cause tragic harm.
Avoid these scary ingredients for your pet
Like us, our pets cannot resist a sugary Halloween treat. Unfortunately, our inability to resist those mini candy bars or homemade brownies results only in weight gain and cavities, but our pets can suffer far more serious side effects.
While you’re on the lookout for Halloween ghosts, keep your eyes peeled for these dangerous ingredients, which may be lurking around your home:
- Macadamia nuts
- Espresso beans
By making your own pet treats, you can know exactly what you are feeding your pet. However, always consult the ASPCA toxic foods list or Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital, if you are unsure about a specific ingredient or recipe.
How to recognize a safe Halloween pet treat
With more pet treats on the shelves than ever, knowing what is best for your pet can be difficult. Narrow your search by reading the label, and select a treat that meets the following criteria:
- No toxic ingredients — Pet treats are not regulated, so checking the ingredients is crucial.
- No artificial colors or flavors — Unnatural colors are used to sell you the product, rather than your color-blind pet. “Artificial flavor” is typically a chemical application.
- Minimal ingredient list — As with human food, less processing is best. Ingredients should be recognizable, and total less than 10.
- Made in the United States — Overseas manufacturers have less stringent safety and cleanliness standards.
- Appropriately sized — Large dogs need bigger treats, to prevent choking, while small dogs and cats appreciate tiny bites, for the same reason.
Responsibly rewarding your pet
Although rewarding our pets with treats can promote bonding, treats should make up no more than 10 percent of their daily diet. Count out your pet’s daily treat allowance every morning, so you are less likely to grab a handful from a bowl or bag.
Healthy Halloween pet treats
When introducing any new treat, always supervise your pet, introduce the treats gradually and in small quantities, and watch for gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting, loose stool, or diarrhea. If your pet is diabetic, or has a history of food intolerance, allergy, or pancreatitis, speak with your veterinarian before adding new items to their diet.
- Fruits and vegetables — Many dogs enjoy carrots, broccoli, green beans, apples, bananas, watermelon, and berries, and you can feel good about giving them a nutritious reward. Freeze the foods for additional fun and crunch.
- Lean meat — Boiled white-meat chicken or turkey divided into bite-size pieces can be a high-value reward for dogs or cats. Save this one for special occasions, such as topping a Kong or food-toy when your pet must be confined (e.g., Halloween night, during a party, or trick-or-treating).
- Plain popcorn — Air-popped popcorn with no salt or flavoring makes a fantastic reward for dogs.
- Pumpkin “fro-yo” bites — Combine one to four tablespoons of plain canned pumpkin and xylitol-free plain yogurt. Freeze in silicone ice-cube molds and serve. Pumpkin is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Peanut butter Kong stuffing — Mix together three parts xylitol-free peanut or almond butter with one part coconut flour. Quantities are based on the size of your dog’s toy. The flour gives the nut butter a smooth, more manageable consistency.
- Tuna treats for dogs and cats — If you’re in a baking mood, this healthy treat is quick to make, freezes well, and can be sliced into tiny pieces, perfect for training. Substitute canned salmon or chicken for variety.
Treat games for pets
Handing your pet a treat is fun, but the fun is over as soon as your pet swallows the food. Instead, think about rewarding your pet as an experience rather than a one-and-done transaction. Don’t leave your pet on the sidelines this Halloween—let them hunt for their healthy treats with a pet-safe game:
- Food-stuffed toys — Kongs, lickable mats, and similar rubber toys are versatile and beneficial rewards for dogs and cats. These long-lasting treats can safely preoccupy your pet while they are crated or confined. Fill the toy with your pet’s meal, or a combination of soft foods. Check out the Kong website for recipes and stuffing tips.
- Snuffle mat — Let your pet forage for small dry treats on one of these fringed mats. Snuffle mats encourage sniffing, which is a gratifying and tiring experience.
- Trick-or-treat for pets — Hide small treats in open cardboard boxes, and let your pet sniff them out. As your pet becomes proficient, add boxes, gradually close them, or leave some boxes empty as decoys.
Pet treats are not limited to food. Car rides, walks, snuggling, and play time with new toys all enrich your pet’s life, and strengthen your bond without adding calories—our favorite kind of pet-safe, non-toxic treats!
If you need assistance calculating your pet’s daily treat allowance, contact Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital. We can help ensure your pet is rewarded with the proper and nutritious amount of safe treats.