Pet owners on alert for jerky treats, Halloween tricks - WKRN News 2

Pet owners on alert for jerky treats, Halloween tricks

Posted: Updated: Oct 30, 2013 03:15 PM CDT

Halloween is a time when pets can be tricked by human treats, so the doctors and staff at Cumberland Animal Hospital in Lebanon are standing by for pet emergencies.

For the candy-filled holiday, chocolate poses the biggest health risk.

"Chocolate actually has a compound in it that's in the same family as caffeine," said Dr. Claire Hacker, Veterinarian at Cumberland Animal Hospital. "[It's said] the darker the chocolate, the more potential the toxicity."

In small doses, chocolate consumption can cause vomiting and diarrhea in animals, but severe reactions include cardiac or neurological symptoms.

Packaging is also a danger.

"Typically the dog [or cat] will eat the whole thing, so you have to worry about the foil wrapping as well which can potentially cause a physical obstruction in the intestine," Dr. Hacker said.

Chocolate isn't the only candy off the table for pets. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in candy and gum, is also harmful and should be kept out of reach.

Cats and dogs should also keep their paws off gourds, cornstalks, and other decor, especially those with candles.  While pumpkin and corn can be a healthy diet supplement for pets, pumpkin rinds and dried corn can cause digestive obstructions. Flame-lit luminaries can pose a fire hazard if knocked over by pets.

In addition to candy and plant restrictions, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) advises pet parents not to leave furry friends outdoors on Halloween night and to use identification tags to avoid lost pets.

"You have a lot of people coming to the door [and] the doorbell ringing. Different costumes can be visually daunting for animals. Even the sweetest of animals, you never know how they'll react in those situations," said Dr. Hacker.

In recent weeks, pet owners have had more to worry about than Halloween.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently sent out a warning on jerky pet treats.

Since 2007, more than 3,000 dogs and 10 cats have gotten sick after eating jerky treats. Nearly 600 pets have died.

Most of the treats were produced in China, but investigators have not yet determined the exact source or cause.

In lieu of an official FDA recall, many manufacturers have issued a voluntary recall including Purina, Publix, Del Monte and Costco.

The FDA has released a list of symptoms that includes a decrease in appetite or activity, vomiting or diarrhea, or an increase in thirst or urination.

If pets exhibit symptoms, owners should take away the jerky treats immediately and consult a veterinarian to schedule medical tests.  The treats should also be saved to send to the FDA if necessary.

For owners wanting to continue handing out treats to pets, Veterinarian Allison Belcher, also with Cumberland Animal Hospital, has some advice.

"Treats in general are not part of a balanced diet, and there are so many better treats to feed, especially things like fresh vegetables," Dr. Belcher said. "So baby carrots and green beans are even better, low calorie, and they're still getting the feeling of getting a treat."

The FDA has released a consumer fact sheet on the jerky treat investigation.

Pet owners who experience any emergency with their pets should call their local veterinarian or the Pet Poison Control Center, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-213-6680.

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