Halloween and Your Pets — All You Need to Know

October 16, 2017

Halloween is a blast for most humans, but can be a truly scary holiday for our pets! Between the costumes, strangers visiting, and irresistible but dangerous candy, Halloween can be a stressful experience for dogs and cats alike. An easy place to start in keeping your pets safe? Ensure that the candy bowl is for trick or treaters only!

Many candies can be toxic to pets- chocolate and sugar-free candies sweetened with Xylitol are especially dangerous. If your pet is a pro at counter-surfing or getting into things, make sure that your candy bowl is kept out of your pet’s reach and put away safely. If your pet does get into candy, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Want to spoil your pet with some Halloween treats? Pet stores carry a great variety of treats that are pumpkin flavored, or Halloween themed. Some human foods that are pet-safe and can make a yummy fall-inspired snack include canned pumpkin (plain varieties only, no added sugar or spices), and cooked squash (no salt or spices!).

Costumes for animals can be so cute, but also a bit uncomfortable for some pets. If your pet isn’t used to wearing clothes, or is nervous being put in a costume, make sure that you make any dressing up a positive experience. Give your pets lots of treats and affection when putting on a costume, and keep a close eye on your pet’s stress level. If your pet is struggling, or avoiding, or starting to pant or drool, costumes may be too much!

Consider a cute Halloween-themed back drop for a fun photo op instead! A festive bandana is also a good, less stressful festive option! If you do dress your pet up, make sure the costume doesn’t restrict your pet’s mobility, breathing, or sight. Make sure the costume doesn’t have any small pieces that could be choking hazards, and make sure your pet is always supervised when in costume. If you are dressing up for the festivities, make sure that your pet isn’t surprised or startled by your costume. Pets may not recognize you in costume, and costumes that are big, bulky, or look like other people can be very frightening to them.

While some pets are unfazed by visitors and parties, others find the entire experience very frightening. That fear can take many forms – a dog’s drooling might increase, he might pant more often or tremble a bit, or he might try to crawl under your bed or into your lap. A cat may start drooling, his coat may poof up, or he may try to hide. Some pets are so scared they take off running. If your pet is scared by strangers or loud gatherings, make sure you have a plan for keeping your pet comfortable during trick or treating. Potty breaks and walks should be done before festivities start. Some pets who feel overwhelmed by lots of visitors, kids or noise may bite or nip out of fear.

Before trick or treating starts, make sure everything is ready for your pet, and your pet is put away in their safe place before scary noise begins or lots of strangers arrive. With the front door open frequently and people constantly coming and going, there is a risk of your pet getting loose or spooked, and running off. For these reasons, it’s important that your pet be safe and secured during Halloween. Make sure that your pet is microchipped, licensed, and wearing a collar with your contact information attached on a tag. That way if your pet does get loose, it is much easier to reunite you and your furry friend.

Photo credit: Dr. James Moore