Halloween Emergencies: glow sticks

Halloween emergencies: glow sticks & costumes

Glow Sticks

Glow sticks are often a cause for enquiry during the Halloween period, as pets - cats in particular – can’t resist chewing on them. Not only are glow sticks a choking hazard for your pet, but also can result in pain or irritation in and around the mouth.

Dibutyl phthalate, also known n-butyl phthalate, is a nearly colourless oily liquid found and is the primary luminescent component in various glow-in-the-dark products.

What symptoms will I observe?

The most common clinical signs are profuse salivation and foaming at the mouth for cats. Usually this will be self-limiting and the pet will not require treatment.

Nearly 50% of cats exhibit signs relating to hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour and this is thought to be due to the extremely unpleasant taste of dibutyl phthalate which will hopefully limit the cats wish to ingest more of the product.

How do we treat glow stick ingestion?

It has been suggested to treat cats that have ingested small amounts of dibutyl phthalate by immediately offering small quantities of milk, canned cat food, tuna juice, or other highly palatable food to dilute the chemical in the mouth. If possible advise the pet owner to rinse the liquid off the skin or coat to prevent further ingestion as a consequence of grooming. 

In the event of ocular exposure, it is advisable to flush the cat's eyes with copious amounts of water/saline.

There is no known antidote for dibutyl phthalate poisoning, so closely monitor animals that have ingested unusually large amounts of the chemical, and provide appropriate decontamination and supportive treatment as necessary.


Pet owners love to get their pets involved with fancy dress at Halloween - remember Floyd from last month's EMS newsletter? Some costumes, although entertaining, can pose a risk for pets. Metallic beads and any other small pieces of zinc or lead can result in serious poisoning if ingested by an animal. There are also other common materials and objects that are often attached to fancy dress costumes that could cause potential obstructions (e.g. buttons, plastic toys). Moreover, there are people who dye their pet's coat a particular colour - we strong advise that you check the ingredients of any dyes beforehand. 

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