When any holiday rolls around, we want our pets to be involved in the fun festivities since they’re a beloved member of the family. However, a few holidays require keeping an extra eye on our fur friends, and Halloween is one such holiday. When pets’ stress levels are elevated and outdoor dangers pose a threat to their safety, it’s best to be on high alert. Below are some tips to help keep your pets safe and stress-free on this spectacularly spooky night.
Take Steps to Reduce Their Stress
Pets are territorial by nature and constantly “on guard,” so a knock at the door or a doorbell ringing every few minutes is likely to spike their stress and anxiety levels.
Consider the following to keep your pet calm this Halloween:
- Keep Halloween treats for trick-or-treaters outside in a bowl to minimize knocking and doorbell ringing or sit on the porch or driveway to greet Halloween guests.
- Keep your pet crated in a room far away from the front door during trick-or-treating hours, with some fun, treat-filled toys to occupy their time and attention.
- If crating your pet is not an option, keep them contained in another room of the house to avoid them darting out the front door or seeing spooky costumes and masks, which are sure to frighten them.
Be Careful with Costumes
It’s tempting to want to involve your pet in the Halloween cosplay along with your kids or incorporate them into a family-themed costume. While we encourage you to have your pets join in on the family fun, be sure to inspect any pet costume closely. Look for clasps, gems, bows, or other small parts they can pull off and ingest. Also, try to select a costume that fits their personality. If your dog, for example, has never enjoyed hats, bows, or headbands, avoid costumes that require a head accessory.
Take their costume off if your pet appears uncomfortable — which dogs will demonstrate through folded down ears, looking sideways, not moving normally, or a tucked tail. A pet costume should not inhibit their ability to walk, run, lay down, breathe, or bark.
Keep Candy Stored Away
While both children and adults are ready for a sugar overload every Halloween, letting your pet get their paws on the candy stash can result in serious complications for them. Chocolate, gum, and xylitol (a sweeter used in many sugar-free candies) are hazardous to pets, and depending on the volume consumed, can even be fatal. The wrappers are also a danger to your pets and can get stuck in their intestinal tract if consumed.
To keep your pets away from Halloween candy:
- Store it in a high kitchen cabinet they can’t access.
- Make sure your kids understand the dangers, so they don’t leave their trick-or-treating candy lying around or decide to share it with their pets intentionally.
- On Halloween night, keep the candy outside the front door, so there’s no risk your pet will sneak off with any of it.
- Once back from treat collecting, be sure to store candy out of reach of pets. Most dogs are able to sneak food off low counters and tables if tempted.
If your pet does manage to find and eat Halloween candy, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline for guidance. If you didn’t witness the act but suspect your pet might have consumed chocolate, warning signs to be on the lookout for include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. It’s always better to err on the side of caution if you suspect chocolate ingestion and call your vet right away.
Avoid Taking Them Trick-or-Treating
It might seem natural to grab the leash and take your dog trick-or-treating along with the kids, but this decision could prove dangerous for a few reasons. Since it will likely be dark outside, you’ll have a hard time seeing if your dog is eating something off the ground that they shouldn’t, which could lead to illness or gastrointestinal issues. You’ll also encounter plenty of people in costumes along the way, which may result in a lot of barking and stress for your pet. Some of those people will include small children who might be fearful of dogs — especially when your dog unexpectedly approaches them during dusk or dark. Nighttime is also prime roaming time for nocturnal creatures, such as raccoons and coyotes, and it’s always best to avoid an encounter between them and your dog.
While Halloween is a favorite holiday for kids and their parents, it’s one that pets can also enjoy but only after taking these extra precautions. You might even consider incorporating them into the fun of dressing up in costumes and preparing for the night, but then place them in a quiet, secure space once it’s time to receive trick-or-treaters at your home or take your kids out for door-to-door fun. The AVMA offers a few additional tips for keeping your pets safe this coming Halloween. If you'd like extra tips for keeping pets safe on any holiday or perhaps your faithful companion is overdue for a wellness visit, please give us a call!