Making Halloween Pet-Safe

Halloween can be an enjoyable time of year for adults and children. However, it’s not always a happy time for pets. Many pets get spooked, upset, and go missing every year. Now that’s NOT fun. Halloween can be scary to our furry friends, and holidays are often when we see elevated cases of runaway pets. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe this Halloween.

  1. Keep the treats to yourself
    The candy bowl is for trick-or-treaters, not Fluffy. Several popular Halloween treats are toxic to pets. Chocolate in all forms (especially baking or dark chocolate) can be very dangerous for cats and dogs. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to pets. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. Xylitol ingestion can also cause liver failure in dogs. Hard candies and lollipop sticks are also choking hazards as they can easily get lodged in pets’ throats. Also, pets have a tendency to ingest not only the candy but also the entire wrapper. If you worry your furry pal has taken a treat from your Halloween haul, monitor him/her for diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate and tremors. If you witness these signs, call your veterinarian immediately. There will be a ton of treats around, so you’ll want to take care to keep it out of your pet’s reach. They can be sneaky, so be extra cautious!
  2.  Minimize Anxiety and Excitement
    Know the signs of stress in your pet, and if they demonstrate those signs, give them some time away from the action. Keeping them in another room may be the best option for some pets. Halloween brings a whirlwind of activity with visitors arriving at the door, and too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets. Even the friendliest and most human-loving pets can be frightened by a gremlin or hooded critter at the door asking for a treat. Halloween is always a treat and trick-filled occasion, so also keep in mind that loud noises and tricks may scare any pets that might be shy or sensitive.
  3. Update Your Pet’s ID Tag
    Having an up-to-date ID tag and/or microchip is the only way you can be sure that your pet can have a chance to get back home. If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that he or she will be returned. Collars and tags are ideal if a good samaritan can collect your lost pet, but microchips offer permanent identification should the collar or tag fall off. While opening the door for guests, be sure that your dog or cat doesn’t dart outside. Again, make sure the information is up-to-date. You can use Halloween as a yearly reminder to double-check your address and phone number on tags and with the company that supports pet microchips.
  4. Guard the Front Door
    Many dogs and cats go crazy when there’s a knock at the door, or a doorbell goes off; this usually means new visitors and different pets react in different ways. Meeting trick-or-treaters at the door may help reduce the stresses of the night for your pets. Again, it may be best to keep them away from the front door, as repeated visitors can drive some pets nuts.
  5. Avoid Costume Disasters
    Playing dress-up with your pet can be fun, but it can be stressful for them. If you do decide that your pet needs a costume, make sure it isn’t dangerous or downright annoying to your pet. Some poorly-made costumes can even be choking hazards. Costumes should not restrict movement, hearing, eyesight, or the ability to breathe. Another tip for pets and costumes: don’t wait until Halloween night to put your pet in a costume for the first time. Get your pet costumes early, and put them on for short periods of time. Anytime you introduce something new; it should be done slowly and in steps if possible. You can make it a great experience for them by offering treats and lots of affection. If at any time, if your pet seems distressed or develops skin problems from interaction with a costume, consider letting him go “au naturel.” A festive bandana may be a good happy medium.
  6. Decorate Safely
    Animals love jack-o-lanterns, but they can be tricky, as they’re a great cause of a fire hazard. Electric and battery-powered Halloween decorations are definitely safer than open candles, but they can still present a hazard to pets. Pets who chew on electrical cords can receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock or burn. Batteries may cause chemical burns when chewed on or gastrointestinal blockage if swallowed. Shards of glass or plastic can cause injuries anywhere on the body or, if swallowed, in the gastrointestinal tract. Be sure your decorations are out of reach of your furry friends.
  7. Stock pet-friendly treats
    Include your pets in the trick-or-treating fun by giving them a special Halloween sweet treat made especially for them. Squeaky pumpkin-shaped toys are also a great option to keep Fluffy entertained while you sort out candy with the kids.

Halloween can be one of the eeriest or mysterious nights of the year, but keeping your animals safe doesn’t have to be tricky if you follow these simple steps. Happy Halloween!

Written by: Miranda Kitzul, RVT