Trick or treating is often the most anticipated event of Halloween. Costumes, candy, new and scary faces… it’s a blast! Our pets, however, may not understand what is going on, and there are precautions we all must take to ensure they stay as safe and happy as the trick-or-treaters.
We all know we shouldn’t eat too much candy, but it can be dangerous for dogs, too. Lots of Halloween candy is chocolate—which contains Theobromine, a toxic substance to dogs. Additionally, many new candies are labeled as “sugar free” and contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener. Xylitol is also toxic to dogs, and is present in many sugar-free foods other than candy. Dogs have wonderfully powerful noses, and will sniff out even the most well-hidden candy stash. Make sure all leftover trick-or-treat candy is stored in a secure container in a place where pets cannot reach it. Also, the wrappers on all the small, individually-wrapped candies smell delicious and can be ingested by your dog, presenting a choking hazard that can block their digestive system. Always make sure to thoroughly clean up the candy dump area after a night of trick-or-treating!
The amount of strange, costumed people constantly ringing the doorbell on
Halloween night is likely to unnerve your pets, and cause anxiety. An anxious dog faced with odd-looking strangers at their door has the potential to turn fear-aggressive or protective of its home, and this can endanger the dog and the children in costume. The best way to prevent unnecessary anxiety or aggression in your dog on Halloween is to keep him in a separate part of the house, perhaps with his favorite bed and toys, so he is calm and comfortable. If your dog has medical anxiety issues, or is a very reactive individual, talking to your veterinarian before Halloween may provide additional strategies.
If your dog happens to really freak out, there is a chance he might escape in a blind panic. Similar to the protocol all pet guardians should follow on holidays like Fourth of July, where many unexpected scary things are happening (from a pet’s point of view), all pets should have proper identification on them and kept securely locked in the house or yard. Make sure there are no escape routes, and for extra protection, equip your pets with reflective or light-up collars so in the event that they do escape, they are visible.
Speaking of light, glow-sticks might enter the picture during Halloween as a fun trick-or-treat gift or a way to keep kids safe. These glow-sticks contain toxic liquid if broken, and must be kept away from pets at all times. If a pet decides to chew on a glow-stick, it could end in severe sickness or even death.Additionally, carved pumpkins, a staple of Halloween festivities, may have candles placed inside for a flickering light effect. These pumpkins should be kept away from pets in order to prevent them from knocking them over with paws or tails, and causing a fire.
Finally, there are many problems associated with costumes. “But my dog looks so cute as a butterfly!” you may say. This may be true, but if you decide to dress up your dog for Halloween, you must realize this is a highly unnatural and potentially stressful activity for your pets. If you put a costume on your pet, and they display signs of stress (excessive panting, hiding, whining, trying to remove the costume, head shaking, etc) you must forfeit your desire for a cute photo and take the costume off. It is better to have a happy, costumeless pet, than a stressed, costumed one!
If your pet seems fine with the costume, still, never leave them unsupervised. Signs of stress can manifest very differently between individuals, and so it is important to monitor their behavior. Also, some pets might try to chew on their costumes and accidentally ingest small parts, leading to choking.
The type of costume you choose can have a big effect on your pet’s stress level. Never try to put a mask on your pet, and avoid costumes with lots of tiny decorations or other small parts that could cause the pet to choke if eaten. If your pet has allergies, skin conditions, or any sores, be aware of them and do not choose materials that aggravate these conditions. Properly fit the costume and avoid too-loose or too-tight fabric—both extremes could inhibit the pet’s movement. Heavy fabrics could also cause your dog, especially long haired dogs, to overheat.
There are, however, some great, safe alternatives to a full costume for your pet. You can put a cute Halloween-patterned collar or bandanna on your pet, or use a non-toxic all-natural pet-safe hair dye to color your pet for the holiday. Additionally, Halloween can become fun for pets with a ‘trick or treat’ of their own—hide tasty pet treats around the house and see if your pet can find them! There are many fun Halloween-themed dog biscuit recipes available online. Creative pet parents can think of endless ways to celebrate Halloween with their pets, while keeping them happy and safe!
- Kristina Polk