In just over two weeks, most veterinary practices — especially emergency clinics — will be on high alert status as they deal with the many pet issues occurring over Halloween.
What types of issues?
Well, there's a major problem with pets swallowing candy.
We all know that chocolate and anything containing the Xylitol sweetener can be extremely dangerous to pets, causing cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, seizures, liver or kidney disease and worse. According to Pet Poison Helpline, calls increase by 12 percent during the week of Halloween, making it the call center’s busiest time of year. That's just the national hotline. We're certain that a Halloween spike in local clinic visits is also due to poison concerns.
We also know that pets suffer from costume-related problems each year.
Unfortunately, some pet parents go overboard in "dressing up" their pets on Halloween. Some costumes can be choking hazards, cause chemical toxicity issues and foreign-object ingestions problems, or restrict movement, seeing or breathing. At worst, we've heard of people "dying their pets" for Halloween, which can be life-threatening. Sometimes costumes and party noises simply freak out a pet and cause stress anxiety.
Speaking of stress anxiety… a lot of pets go missing on this holiday.
Imagine how pets can become frightened by the sudden onset of constant doorbell ringing and strangers in costumes, shouting as the door opens. It's enough to make dogs and cats go running — sometimes right out the door. In addition, black cats are especially vulnerable as pranksters think it's "fun" to include them in their entertainment. Halloween is a big night for reporting missing pets.
Other safety issues can harm pets.
Consider the carved pumpkin that's tempting but has a lit candle inside. It's the same with candles in the window… very dangerous to a kitten that's drawn to the flame. Swallowed candy wrappers and decorations can cause serious problems as well.
Yes, Halloween can be a scary night for animals — and veterinary clinics need to be prepared.
So, how can you help practices deal with these cases?
This week, and up until Halloween, talk with every practice you visit about their Halloween Plan.
During each of your sales calls, set aside a few moments to mention Halloween. You may say something like, "Doctor (or Practice Manager), what can I get you so you're prepared for Halloween cases?"
If they can't think of anything, here are a number of suggestions you can make:
Stock up on extra supplies for dealing with poison cases, such as:
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, and activated charcoal for possible treatment
- Electrolyte tests, important for accurate fluid replacement (it may even be time to upgrade the practice's electrolyte analyzer)
- Blood panels to check for other conditions that may have been caused by swallowing poison
Stock up on extra supplies for dealing with costume injuries, such as:
- Scopes that accurately detect foreign objects
- Surgical equipment to remove foreign objects
- All other equipment that might be needed for cuts, skin problems and other related issues
Ask about microchips and accurate readers.
Ask the practice how long they've had their microchip scanner(s)… and do they need to update their system? Also, it would be a great idea for practices to send out reminders to make sure their pets' microchip contact information is up to date. This may open a discussion about the practice's reminder system — maybe it's time for an upgrade.
In addition, clinic teams are often looking for helpful client education materials. You can help by making sure your customers know about the many free client education resources available to them, such as…
- The VPI Pet Insurance article, "5 Ways to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween"
- An AVMA article, "7 Things You Can Do To Make Halloween Safer For Your Pet"
- Hill's Pet Nutrition article, "Have a Safe Halloween With Your Cat"
- PreventiveVet.com's article, "Halloween Safety for Dogs & Cats"
Right now, look through your product catalog to think of other items that may be helpful to your customers… so you can scare up some extra business while helping practices prepare for the inevitable.