Halloween: From a Pet’s Perspective
Halloween – the spooky, silly, fun holiday that some of us look forward to all year. All the preparations and anticipation can cause us to overlook some very real dangers for our pets, however. Here are some great tips that will allow your pet to enjoy Halloween just as much as you do.
Candy, Candy, Everywhere! Secure the candy bowl! We know that chocolate can be very dangerous for our pets —especially dark or baking chocolate. Beyond that, many candies now contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can also cause life threatening problems for your pets. Keep your candy bowls out of reach of your pet at all times during trick or treating. If you have young trick-or-treaters in your household, remember that they may not be careful about keeping their treats away from pets. Candy hidden under the bed may be safe from their siblings, but certainly isn't safe from your puppy! If you suspect your pet has eaten any amount of candy, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
- Pumpkins, decorative corn, gourds, and other popular plants we use to decorate our homes during Halloween are not particularly toxic, but might produce some upset stomachs (with unpleasant results!) if your pet decides to sample them.
- Candles, candles, candles – Halloween decorations are all about candles—in our pumpkins, on tables, along walkways, etc. Candles are always a danger for our pets, both indoors and out. Consider opting for some battery powered candles to reduce the risk of fire and injury.
- If you are decorating with electrical lights or other decorations, be careful to prevent your pet from chewing on or becoming tangled in the cords. Remember that anything new in the household is likely to be very interesting to our pets, and their curiosity may cause them to chew or try to play with those objects. Take steps to avoid the risk of electrical shock or other injury caused by chewing or eating decorations.
Pet Costumes! If your pet is used to wearing clothes or is generally a very laid back and tolerant pet, then dressing up in a Halloween costume won’t be a big deal. If you’ve never dressed your pet in anything before, Halloween night is probably not the best time to start. Some pets become very stressed and anxious being dressed up – if that’s the case, postpone the costume and consider some gradual positive training and acclimation to prepare for next year. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't uncomfortable or unsafe. Make sure that your pet can move normally, hear, see, breath, and vocalize. Be cautious about any small and/or easily chewed off pieces on the costume. Again, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, it is best to respect your pet and forgo the costume.
And by far the scariest Halloween Pet Danger….TRICK OR TREATERS! People in costumes can be incredibly frightening to our pets, and not at all in a humorous way. A pet can even be (usually temporarily) scared of a person in their family wearing a new costume. We can't stress this enough -- this isn't funny. If your pet shows anxiety toward you or a family member in a costume, speak and act as normally as possible to let your pet know that "it's you!" and that everything is fine. And we're just going to say this one more time....scaring your pet or allowing your pet to be scared on purpose isn't funny. Period.
Unless your pets are very social, reliable, and well trained, they should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be very frightening and stressful for pets. It is best not to subject your pet to the stress and risk that your pet may react out of fear. Don't risk injury to your pet or to the trick-or-treaters visiting your door!
Many pets are lost on Halloween! When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside. This is an excellent time of year to ensure that your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a true lifesaver!
Take some common sense steps to avoid any problems that will dampen your Halloween spirit --or require a trip to see the VMC Emergency Service -- and enjoy Halloween!