Halloween should be full of treats, the occasional trick and plenty of adorable pet Halloween costumes filling your social media feeds. Unfortunately, it’s also full of potential dangers to our pets, from pet costume snafus to toxic treats to even electrical shock. We spoke with Dr. Bethany Howe-Fanning, DVM, CVA, of Hawkins Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Ronkonkoma, New York, to put together a list of Halloween pet safety tips.
These Halloween safety tips for pets are easy enough to follow and can be the difference between a night of scary good fun and a night that’s just plain scary. (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:
- Chocolate: Pet parents might love chocolate, but this sweet treat is poisonous to dogs due to the theobromine found in it, which dogs have a harder time digesting.
- Raisins and chocolate-covered raisins: Raisins can be extremely toxic to dogs and could lead to kidney failure.
- Sugar-free candy: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many foods, including certain sugar-free candies, that’s extremely toxic to dogs and can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure or death. Xylitol doesn’t, however, cause serious problems in cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
- Caramel apples: First, super-sweet caramel is never a good idea to feed pets. Second, the seeds inside of caramel or candy apples can really make your dog ill as they contain a form of cyanide, says Dr. Kiko Bracker, DVM, DACVECC, director of emergency and critical care for MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
- Candy corn: “Signs associated with ingestion of large amounts of sucrose and glucose [found in candy corn] are going to be gastrointestinal,” says Dr. Leonel Londoño, DVM, DACVECC, clinical assistant professor of emergency and critical care at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, Florida. “With severe diarrhea and vomiting, signs of dehydration and abdominal pain may also develop, requiring veterinarian attention.”
- Macadamia nuts: These nuts are highly toxic to dogs and eating even a small amount can cause weakness, tremors and lethargy in dogs.
(Read more about what makes these candies so dangerous.)
Remember to keep all Halloween candy—including candy wrappers—away from your pet. Consider storing it in a locked or high cabinet that even the most athletic of pets won’t be able to access.
If you suspect your pet has eaten anything toxic, call your vet or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.
For a pet-friendly Halloween treat, try whipping up 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! Consider a Halloween-themed bandana instead.
Follow these tips when dressing up your pet:
- Choose a comfortable costume that fits properly, doesn’t restrict movement and doesn’t hinder your pet’s ability to breathe. (Pay special attention to those Chewy size guides!)
- If your pet displays 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.)
- Check the costume before the big night to make sure there are no loose buttons or embellishments that your pet could tear off and swallow.
- Ensure their Halloween fashion show is brief. Your pet might be game for a quick Instagram photo session in their costume, but they may become uncomfortable if left in their outfit for a longer period of time.
- Never leave your pet alone when they’re dressed in their costume. You need to keep an eye on them in case of a costume malfunction, like if their costume gets caught on something.
3. Beware of Decoration Dangers
Some Halloween decorations can also pose a Halloween pet safety risk, such as:
- Electrical cords: Pets can easily chew on them and get an electric shock or get tangled up. Opt for decorations that run on batteries, rather than electrical cords.
- Fog machines: You don’t want them to consume the possibly toxic solution. Keep these away from pets or pass on them period.
- Glow sticks: Some pets may mistake these for chew toys. Similar to fog machines, you don’t want them to consume the possibly toxic solution. “Thankfully, the liquid inside glow sticks is nontoxic, so it won’t actually make pets sick,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinary consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado, tells PetMD, “but it does taste awful.” And according to the ASPCA, pets who bite into glow sticks may begin drooling and running around the house.
- Candles: Lit candles on their own or in jack-o'-lanterns are seasonal favorites, but boy are they fire hazards. Dogs and cats can easily knock them over or burn themselves. So, opt for faux candles or keep them in an area out of pet’s reach.
- Small decorations or decorations with small baubles: These can be a choking hazard. Skip these types of decorations.
4. Keep Them Away from All the Hocus Pocus
Can you think of anything scarier than one of your pets getting loose? 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, leaving you with a lost pet.
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
Should your pet slip out of the house, proper identification can help get them home safe and sound—and quickly, too. Double check that their collar and ID tag are all secure and up to date.
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. Learn more about pet microchips.
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.
Watch for signs of stress and anxiety in cats and dogs, including:
- Excessive barking
- Going to the bathroom in the house (or, for cats, outside of the litter box)
If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet to rule out any medical problems and, if none exist, consider a calming supplement or calming apparel to help ease their symptoms on potentially stressful days, such as Halloween night.
PetHonesty's Hemp Calming Soft Chews, for example, boast a combination of ingredients, like organic hemp powder and oil, chamomile, ginger and valerian root, that, together help relax pups. (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 caring for your pet on Halloween can present a number of challenges, following these tips can ensure everyone in your family stays safe and has a happy Halloween.
More Ways to Have a Fun and Safe Halloween: