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Halloween is a fun night of trick-or-treating, costume-wearing, and creeping out your party guests with haunting decor. But while Halloween may be one of the most exciting nights of the year, this excitement can be downright spooky for pets. With trick-or-treaters coming and going and costumes constantly changing, many dogs and cats become anxious on Halloween.
In addition, Halloween can be dangerous for pets in many ways. Not only can candy harm them, but even something as seemingly innocent as Halloween costumes and decorations can be hazardous. Let’s discuss a few Halloween pet safety tips to keep your pet happy and safe this spooky season.
- Keep Halloween Treats Out Of Reach
- Make Sure Your Pet Has A Microchip & Updated ID
- Calm Your Pet’s Nerves During Trick-Or-Treating Hours
- Choose Halloween Decor Carefully
- Buy A Comfortable & Safe Halloween Costume For Your Pet
1. Keep Halloween Treats Out Of Reach
One of the most dangerous aspects of Halloween for pets is candy. Many Halloween candies contain chocolate and xylitol, both dangerous ingredients that are toxic to cats and dogs. While chocolate is usually easy to spot, xylitol is not — it’s used as a sugar alternative and can be found in candies, baked goods, and other sweet treats.
Some dangerous treats to watch out for include:
- Sugar-free candy
- Caramel apples
- Candy corn
- Baked goods
While these are some of the most toxic Halloween candy for pets, your cat or dog should not consume any candy. Sugar can cause GI upset in pets, resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, and other side effects. If you have children, they should be monitored to ensure they’re properly disposing of their candy wrappers and keeping candy away from pets. Additionally, make sure all Halloween guests know to keep candy and other sweet treats away from your cats and dogs.
If you believe your dog or cat has gotten ahold of Halloween treats, contact your emergency vet or call the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at 888-426-4435.
2. Make Sure Your Pet Has A Microchip & Updated ID
Pets commonly escape on Halloween because there are lots of people coming and going as trick-or-treaters and party guests arrive. Stress caused by multiple people in and around your home, people in costumes, and loud noises can cause your pet to have increased anxiety. If your dog or cat becomes anxious, their fight-or-flight response may kick in, and many pets will escape their home or yard to get away from the chaos.
Ensuring your pet has ID in the form of a microchip and/or ID tag will help them be found if they get lost on Halloween.
Additionally, your dog should never go outside unsupervised, especially unleashed. If you must take your dog out during Halloween night, keep them on a leash and be aware of your surroundings. You can also take them to an area where they won’t see many trick-or-treaters, like the backyard instead of the front yard.
3. Calm Your Pet’s Nerves During Trick-Or-Treating Hours
Even calm pets can become nervous on Halloween because of all the excitement. Since there will be more neighborhood activity on this night than the rest of the year, your dog or cat may become more anxious.
You can calm your pet’s nerves by ensuring their sanctuary space is accessible. Installing a white noise machine can be a great way to block some of the sound from the evening’s festivities. If you’re having a get-together to celebrate Halloween, you may also choose to keep your pet in a separate room to prevent them from getting too nervous around people they may not have met. You can also use toys and interactive games to keep them occupied and mentally stimulated.
Nervous pets with anxiety may also benefit from anxiety treatment options, including anxiety medication. If your dog or cat is naturally anxious, especially around people, Halloween can exacerbate their nervousness, which can cause fear-based reactivity and potentially dangerous situations. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog or cat has anxiety and may benefit from behavioral training and medication.
In addition, dogs and cats that get enough exercise may be less prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Plan to walk your dog a few hours before the busiest trick-or-treating times to ensure they’ve gotten enough exercise to prevent pent-up energy from causing further anxiety.
4. Choose Halloween Decor Carefully
Halloween decor poses dangers to pets. For example, open flames can cause burns and fires, so candles must be stored high and away from pets. In addition, electrical cords from lighted decorations can cause electric shock or get tangled. Instead, you can choose battery-operated decorations to prevent curious pets from putting themselves in unnecessary danger.1
Other types of decorations can cause GI issues. For example, if you use glow sticks on Halloween, be aware that dogs and cats may try to chew on them. The liquid inside glow sticks is non-toxic, but it can result in GI issues.
You should also be aware of any decorations your dog or cat may try to chew and swallow that can cause choking or intestinal blockages. For example, spider webs, plastic spiders, and pumpkin rinds can cause GI issues in dogs and pose a choking and blockage danger.
In general, pumpkins are safe for dogs and cats. However, your pet should never eat the pumpkin rind as it’s difficult to digest. In addition, you should always toss your pumpkins when they get moldy because eating mold can cause GI upset in pets.1
5. Buy A Comfortable & Safe Halloween Costume For Your Pet
Pets on Halloween are at an increased risk of poisoning, but candy isn’t the only potential danger in your home.
Animals in Halloween costumes are the best part of Halloween for many pet parents, with the top Halloween animal costumes being:
- Hot Dog
However, you must choose your dog or cat’s Halloween costume wisely. Your pet’s costume should fit comfortably without restricting movement. You should be able to place two fingers under the costume around their body, throat/chest, and legs to ensure the costume fits correctly and prevent discomfort, which can contribute to added stress.
Pet costumes should not have excessive adornments, especially ones that can fall off or your pet can chew, because they can be choking hazards and cause GI issues when ingested.
In addition, pet costumes should only be worn for short periods and under supervision. Even if your pet’s costume fits correctly and they’re content wearing it, there may still be some dangers. For example, your pet’s costume can get snagged on furniture, potentially choking a pet trying to break themselves free. When your pet is in their costume, make sure they’re being monitored to ensure they’re not chewing on or snagging their costume on items around the house.
Remember, not every pet will love wearing a Halloween costume. Some will tolerate it, but others may fight the process. If your pet doesn’t like wearing Halloween costumes, don’t force them — putting your pet in a costume can cause additional stress.
How do you handle an anxious dog on Halloween?
It’s relatively common for dogs to become anxious on Halloween because of the noises and visitors. If your cat or dog displays signs of anxiety, it’s always best to keep them away from the door in a safe, secure place. You can keep them in their crate (if they are crate trained and comfortable) or a bedroom with a family member so they won’t get lonely. Since doorbells and knocks on the door can make pets anxious, you can use a sound machine or turn the television on to block the noise. Your pet may also enjoy relaxing music.
Unfortunately, you may have to take your dog outside on Halloween night, depending on when they last went out. Luckily, trick-or-treating doesn’t last too long into the night, so you may be able to wait to take them out until all of the trick-or-treating is over. However, if you must take your dog outside during trick or treating, keep them away from others. Halloween costumes can be scary to dogs, and seeing so many people outside can cause anxiety. When taking your dog for their potty break on Halloween, consider taking them to a quiet place in the yard or somewhere they won’t see a lot of people.
If you have a pet that gets anxious from loud noises and strangers, you could also use short-term medications to reduce their anxiety levels. Talk to your vet about your options on Halloween. In many cases, they will prescribe the same medications they do for Fourth of July fireworks that cause anxiety in pets.
Are costumes safe for pets?
In general, costumes are safe for pets when they fit properly, and your pet is monitored while wearing them. Avoid accessories that can be chewed and swallowed, causing choking hazards, and ensure your pet’s costume fits correctly. In addition, limit the amount of time your pet spends in their Halloween costume. Finally, do not leave your pet unsupervised when wearing their costume because they can get snagged or the costume can get tangled, potentially causing injury.
What percentage of people dress up their pets on Halloween?
Pets are family, so it’s no wonder over 20% of people dress up their pets on Halloween.3 However, Remember, some pets may not tolerate costumes at all. If your pet seems stressed or uncomfortable wearing a costume, take it off to prevent unnecessary anxiety on an already scary night.
These pet safety Halloween tips can help you prepare and take care of your pet this October 31st. However, you know your pet best. If your dog or cat starts displaying signs of anxiety, take the time to make them feel more secure. For example, if your dog starts panting, pacing, or barking every time the doorbell rings, give them their own quiet space to spend the night away from all the strange people and noises.
In addition, never let your pet go near the door while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. While your pets may be friendly and love people, all the noise, lights, and strangers can cause anxiety and the potential for a door dash.
Keeping your pet safe on Halloween is essential, but some pets are more anxious than others. Of course, no one wants to see their pet in distress, so if you have an anxious dog or cat, consider talking to a Dutch vet before Halloween to discuss your options for reducing pet anxiety on the spookiest night of the year.
“5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips.” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_halloween_safety_tips.
“Halloween Spending Soars as Celebrations Near Pre-Pandemic Levels.” National Retail Federation, https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/halloween-spending-soars-celebrations-near-pre-pandemic-levels.
“Halloween: Dressing up Pets U.S. 2021.” Statista, 14 Oct. 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1178291/halloween-dressing-up-pets-us/.