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Originally published Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 7:30 AM

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Keep pets safe on Halloween

Easy ways to help your pet avoid some holiday-related hazards.

Akron Beacon Journal

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Each year at this time, pet owners are warned to keep animals safe indoors away from thieves and injury.

Like children, animals can easily become frightened seeing people in strange costumes and masks on the spookiest night of the year.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers these tips for animal owners during the Halloween season:

• Limit treats to trick-or-treaters. Chocolate — especially dark or baking chocolate — can be dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

• Pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce an upset stomach in pets that nibble on them.

• Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

• Use battery-powered lights instead of candles. Pets can easily knock a candle or candlelit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

• Don't put your dog or cat in a costume unless you know he or she loves it. For pets who don't like them, wearing a costume might cause undue stress.

• If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal's movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, skip the costume.

Examine your pet's costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

• All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate, quiet room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

• When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside. Keep a leash by the door so you can clip it to your pet before opening the door.

• Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification and wears an up-to-date license. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

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