Between the treats and the tricks, Halloween can be a ton of fun for your future clients and their pets. However, like any holiday, there’s an increased chance of mishaps- and some of these pets may end up in your practice.
So, what cases might you see during this time of the year and what are some recommendations?
Dietary Indiscretion and Toxicity Cases
From baked goods to holiday meals, there are a number of treats that pets can ingest that can lead to symptoms of dietary indirection. Pets may present with vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of GI upset.
It may be tricky to know if these cases are just gastroenteritis type cases or if there could be more going on such as pancreatitis or other conditions. Make sure to always get a thorough history and ask specific questions about what the pet may have ingested. It is a good idea to recommend a full diagnostic workup which includes lab testing and imaging!
As a general practitioner, my minimum recommendations are CBC/CHEM/UA/Lytes, fecal testing, abdominal radiographs; depending on the case, I may recommend other diagnostics as well and I encourage you to alter your recommendations based on the case and your patient.
Some foods in particular can be toxic- such as chocolate (it contains methylxanthines such as theobromines and caffeine which can lead to CNS and cardiac signs), Xylitol containing candy which can lead to hypoglycemia and hepatic effects and raisins, which may cause renal failure.
It is always a good idea to encourage pet owners to call the ASPCA Poison control center if you have a suspected or known toxicity case. Your treatment plan will depend on the specific toxicity but make sure to keep some basic recommendations in mind such a potential need for decontamination (emesis/activated charcoal), fluid therapy and other treatment and supportive care measures as dictated by the patient, case and recommendations from the poison control center. One good book that will be helpful in these urgent cases is Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J Plunkett.
Occasionally, pets may escape when visitors come to the door or if they get away from the owner when they’re out trick or treating. If a lost pet comes to your clinic, make sure to scan for a microchip. If the owner can’t be identified immediately, make sure to check with your local animal control center about the proper protocol to follow to ensure the best possible chance of reunion with the owner.
Halloween Foreign Bodies
Like many of pet owners, I also think my dog looks adorable as a Lady Bug but Halloween costumes and decorations may increase the risk of ingestion of foreign bodies and potential obstruction. If you suspect ingestion of a foreign body- make sure to offer radiographs (in addition to labwork) to start your investigation.
Some radiographs of potential obstruction may be tricky to interpret so in suspected foreign body cases, I always recommend adding a STAT radiology consult to make sure you have another pair of eyes on your x-rays!
Additionally, always explain to owners that not all cases of obstruction are immediately obvious and that further investigation (repeat x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, other imaging diagnostics/therapeutics/studies or surgical exploratory) may be needed in addition to supportive care during this time. Having this conversation at the beginning of the case is always a good idea so owners know what to expect!