Halloween is a great time for kids of all ages to dress up as the character they would most like to be and ring doorbells for treats.
But the holiday isn’t always fun for pets. They may become overly excited by the continually ringing doorbell, and anxious because the visitors aren’t coming inside. Friendly dogs may want to greet every visitor, frightening children who aren’t used to dogs, and cats may sneak out the door when you’re not looking.
As a responsible pet owner, you can take action to maintain a fun Halloween for your pets and trick-or-treaters who may be at your door. Here are seven things you can do to keep your pet safe on Halloween:
1. Provide safe treats
Many pet stores are selling treats with Halloween shapes if you’d like to have your pet join in the fun, but make sure whatever you give your pet is safe to eat. This means no chocolate or other candies, which can be toxic to pets.
These items put your pet at high risk:
- Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that can be toxic to your pet.
- Sticks on caramel apples can be swallowed and cause choking or damage to internal organs.
- Candy can upset the stomach, resulting in diarrhea or vomiting.
- Packaging can cause choking or an intestinal blockage.
- Foil wrappers can become as dangerous as razors when swallowed.
Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your vet or Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435.
Be careful where you store the candy before and after Halloween. My 80-pound Irish wolfhound mix ate three bags of dark chocolates, which I thought I had put up high enough on the counter, out of his reach. The dog got violently sick to his stomach, but recovered. A smaller dog might not have survived. And, no, I didn’t have pet insurance to cover the vet bills.
2. Keep pets indoors
Black cats, because of superstitions, are especially at risk of abuse during this time. Many animal shelters won’t allow you to adopt a black cat during the month of October because of this problem.
There are also stories of vicious pranksters who have teased, injured, stolen or killed pets that were left in their yards or allowed to roam outside on Halloween.
3. Keep pets away from the front door
Keep your pet in a separate room during trick-or-treat hours. The continuous opening and closing of the door, ringing of doorbells, and general noise associated with groups of people approaching the house can be stressful or confusing to pets. Dogs may feel the need to protect their home and humans, and may bite your bizarre-looking visitors, which may or may not be covered by your Homeowners policy. Your pet may also become frightened and dart through the open door.
I keep my dogs in a darkened room in their crates during trick-or-treat times with blankets over the crates. I also make sure each dog has a favorite toy to reduce anxiety, and I play soft music to mute the noise from the front door. It helps them stay calm.
4. Choose pet costumes wisely
If you want to dress your dog up, keep it simple, for example, a bandanna or decorative collar. If your dog can tolerate wearing a full costume—and actually likes it—pick one that fits comfortably. If it’s too tight, it could cut off circulation, restrict movement, obstruct breathing or cause sore spots. If the costume is too loose, your dog can trip or become tangled. Accessories such as strings, capes, or belts can get caught on objects in your house. Your dog could also ingest parts of the costume—loose fabric or buttons—and choke. If your dog swallows the part, this could cause a blockage or irritation in the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in an emergency trip to the vet and large bills if you don’t have pet insurance.
When you’re outside going door to door—and it will most likely be dark—make sure the costume is reflective so that your dog easily can be seen by drivers. Buy reflective tape, cut it into strips and apply it to the costume.
If the costume is too heavy, your dog could overheat or become exhausted. If your dog is excessively panting or lagging behind, this is a clue for you to remove the costume.
It’s a smart idea to get your dog used to wearing the costume you’ve selected. Have him wear it several times before the actual day so he’s comfortable with the new outfit.
5. Have pets wear tags or IDs
Always make sure that your pet has proper identification. If your pet gets out of the house and is lost, a collar, tags and a microchip can be lifesaving.
Dogs can easily become frightened or spooked by loud or unusual sounds on Halloween night and may try to run away from you. Should this happen, having the dog’s ID tag in place will help you get your pet back.
6. Decorations can be dangerous
Carved pumpkins on your front porch are fun, but never leave your pet unattended around a candle-lit pumpkin. If the pumpkin is knocked over, it could burn your pet or start a house fire. Curious kittens are especially susceptible to playing with flickering lights in a darkened room.
If you want to light a carved pumpkin, consider using battery-operated candles. Many now flicker so they look like the real thing without the fire hazard.
7. Don’t leave pets in a parked car
Pets may find it very frightening to sit in a dark car while scary creatures of every size and shape walk by. Furthermore, your normally friendly dog can become aggressive and protective and lash out at a friendly ghost or witch. If your dog is upset by the trick-or-treaters—or just bored—he might also damage the interior of your car, trying to get out, resulting in an interesting conversation with your Auto insurance agent.
For the safety of your pets, leave them at home, inside where they are safe.
(Our thanks go to Canine Company, Banfield Pet Hospital, and the ASPCA for their safety tips.)