Halloween should be full of treats, the occasional trick and plenty of adorable pet Halloween costumes filling your social media feeds. Unfortunately, what October 31st is also full of is potential dangers to our pets. That’s why it’s so important that pet parents make note of these Halloween safety tips for pets. They’re easy enough to follow and can be the difference between a night of scary good fun and a night that’s just plain scary.
One of the biggest dangers pet parents may encounter on Halloween night is an abundance of tempting treats that are not intended for the four-legged among us. In fact, many popular Halloween candies are actually toxic to dogs and cats. “We always see an increase in pets coming in with gastroenteritis, pancreatitis and ingestion of foreign bodies during Halloween time,” says Bethany Howe, DVM, CVA, of Hawkins Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Ronkonkoma, New York.
But that’s not the only haunting hazard that lurks during this time of year. Here’s a list of key Halloween safety tips for pets so you can ensure they have just as much fun as you do throughout this spooky season. (We’ve even included a graphic at the end that you can print and hang on your fridge so everyone in your household will be in-the-know!)
1. Watch Out for Candy Capers
When it comes to Halloween pet safety, keeping all that Halloween candy out of reach of dog and cat counter-surfers is absolutely essential. While your pet really shouldn’t be eating any of it, there are some types of Halloween candy that are particularly toxic to pets, including:
- Raisins and chocolate-covered raisins
- Sugar-free candy
- Caramel apples
- Candy corn
- Macadamia nuts
(You can read more about what makes these candies so dangerous here.)
Remember to keep all Halloween candy away from your pet, says Dr. Howe, and to contact your veterinarian if your pet eats any. Consider storing it in a locked or high cabinet that even the most athletic of pets won’t be able to access.
For a pet-friendly Halloween treat, try whipping up these DIY peanut butter cup dog treats so your pup can join in on the fun!
2. Choose a Comfy Costume
There are so many gosh darn cute costumes out there for pets of all kinds, from large pups to cats to even guinea pigs. But while there may be, in theory, a costume for every pet, not every pet wants to dress up—and that’s OK!
Pet parents should always follow their fur baby’s lead when it comes to dressing up: First, try to opt for a costume that seems comfortable, isn’t restrictive and fits properly. (Pay special attention to those Chewy size guides!) Try it on and if your pet seems unbothered by it, go on and have them strut their stuff in their costume! If they display any signs of stress or discomfort which, according to Dr. Howe, can include pacing, hiding or refusing to move, take it off. (No cute photo op is worth your pet’s discomfort.)
Also, ensure that your pet’s Halloween fashion show is a brief and supervised one. Your doggo might be game for a quick Instagram photo session in their costume, but they might become uncomfortable if left in their outfit for a longer period of time. Be sure to keep an eye on them as well—you don’t want their costume getting caught on anything.
3. Beware of Decoration Dangers
Some Halloween decorations can also pose a Halloween pet safety risk, warns Dr. Howe. Electrical cords (pets can easily chew on them or get tangled up, says Dr. Howe), fog machines (you don’t want them to consume the possibly toxic solution) and candles (dogs and cats can easily knock them over) should all be kept out of reach of pets. When possible, try to find some scary good alternatives. For example, opt for decorations that run on batteries, rather than electrical cords. Pet parents should also keep on an eye out for possible choking hazards, such as small décor items and costume accessories.
4. Keep Them Away from All the Hocus Pocus
Can you think of anything scarier than one of your pets getting lose? No spooky story or horror movie can compare to that scary scenario! With the front door opening and closing so often on Halloween night, it’s best to keep pets away from the door and all the action to prevent them from slipping out.
During trick-or-treating hours or if you’re having friends over for a small (socially distanced) Halloween get-together, the best course of action is to keep your pets safely crated and out of sight of the front door or in a secure, quiet room, advises Dr. Howe. Be sure you add some creature comforts to their secured space, such as their bed, water, food, your cat’s litter box and a favorite toy.
5. Tag Your Tiny Trick-or-Treater
Take precautions just in case that scary scenario becomes a reality and your pet manages to slip out. Double checking that their collar and ID tags are all secure and up to date is among the most important Halloween safety tips for pets. This could help them get home safe and sound—and quickly, too.
If your pet is microchipped, ensure that your contact information is correct in the microchip company’s database. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your vet about the simple procedure to provide future peace of mind. “When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip,” states the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s website. “If they find a microchip, and if the microchip registry has accurate information, they can quickly find the animal's owner.”
6. Calm Skittish Spirits
Although this year’s Halloween season may look a little different, it’s still important for pet parents to prepare for a rise in neighborhood activity—and the anxiety it may bring your beloved animals. Trick-or-treaters ringing the doorbell throughout the night, encountering people in costumes during your evening walk, and scary sound machines set up outside houses can stir up stress in pets.
Pet parents should always watch for signs of stress and anxiety in their animals, reiterates Dr. Howe. “Generally, panting, hiding, excessive barking and pacing are all signs of anxiety,” she says. “Also, anxious cats may defecate or urinate outside of the litter box.”
If you notice any of these signs, Dr. Howe recommends contacting your vet to rule out any medical problems and, if none exist, to consider a calming supplement or calming apparel to help ease their symptoms on potentially stressful days, such as Halloween night.
Dr. Lyon’s Calming Aid Soft Chews, for example, are formulated with melatonin and designed to help relax pups naturally without sedating them. (Just be sure to talk to your vet before beginning any new supplements.) Calming diffusers, such as the Adaptil Dog Diffuser and Feliway 30 Day Starter Kit, are another option to consider. These are made to release special dog- and cat-appeasing pheromones to help pets feel safe and secure.
Meanwhile, Thundershirts are designed to hug your pet with gentle, constant pressure to potentially calm fear and anxiety. There are versions for both dogs and cats, so all of your furry family members can reap the benefits.
While Halloween can be a frighteningly fun time for us humans, it can be down-right frightening for some of the pets in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to heed these rules for Halloween safety for dogs and cats—so everyone in your family can be as comfortable as possible this October.