Halloween can be a busy night for pets. And, depending on their personality, the steady stream of costumed candy-seekers and party-goers can be enchanting or terrifying. Either way, you’ll need to manage your pet’s experience to prevent real-life horrors, such as toxin ingestion, escape, or physical harm. Check out these tips from Madison Street Animal Hospital for ensuring your pet—and your guests—have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.
Don’t allow your pet to consume candy
Unattended candy dishes and trick-or-treat bags are easy targets for dogs and cats. In addition, generous children and well-meaning, but uninformed, adults may share their sweet treats. Stay vigilant by supervising your pet at all times and instructing guests to keep candy and “people food” away from pets. Following are the most dangerous candy ingredients, but any unusual foods can trigger serious health conditions, including pancreatitis and gastroenteritis.
Pay special attention to these top pet toxins commonly found on and around Halloween.
- Chocolate — Perhaps the best known pet toxin, chocolate contains methylxanthines, which are stimulant-like ingredients that affect the heart and nervous system.
- Xylitol — Also listed as birch sugar, xylitol is a sweetener commonly used in sugar-free candy and snacks. Dogs who consume xylitol can suffer severe hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), and acute liver failure.
- Macadamia nuts — Although rarely life-threatening, macadamia nut ingestion can cause musculoskeletal side effects, including tremors, weakness, and temporary hind limb mobility loss.
- Raisins and grapes — These ingredients can lead to acute kidney failure in dogs.
Provide guests who can’t resist indulging your furry friend with pet-safe holiday treats that feature pumpkin or carob.
Give your pet a place to hide from the Halloween hijinks
For those pets who would rather RSVP “No” to frightful festivities, we recommend creating a safe hideaway where they can spend the evening in peace. Prioritizing your pet’s comfort and safety will help avoid the stressful and scary situations that can cause pets to panic, escape, or display fear-based aggression.
Exercise your pet in the mid-afternoon so they’ll rest during the evening. If your pet chews responsibly, offer them a positive distraction such as a food-stuffed Kong or treat-dispensing toy. Ensure your pet’s hideaway is quiet and comfortable by including a cozy bed, water, litter box, and their favorite toys, and play white noise to drown out the scary sounds outside.
Observe your pet’s body language
Costumes and masks can change a person’s smell and silhouette—and pets will have difficulty recognizing familiar friends and family. Children and adults who are caught up in the Halloween spirit may exaggerate their movements or unnaturally shriek or shout and can cause the most confident pets to feel nervous and unsure. And, startled pets may bite or scratch.
If you plan to include your pet in your Halloween festivities, monitor their behavior and body language at all times. Dogs and cats generally provide many subtle warning signs before they react, including:
- Excessive panting
- Yawning or scratching
- Avoidance (i.e., shying away, retreating)
- Lip licking
- Whale eye (i.e., visible white of the eye)
- Dilated pupils
- Pinned ears
- Tight or pursed lips
- Raised hair on the neck
- Shaking or trembling
- Cowering or low posture
If you notice any stress signs, remove your pet from the situation. Never force your pet to accept petting or to socially interact with strangers. If you are trick-or-treating, take your pet home to rest.
Check that your pet’s costume is comfortable and safe
According to one major pet retailer, more than three-quarters of pet owners will dress their pet up for Halloween. If your furry friend is one of those lucky—or unlucky—pets, ensure you check their costume before taking them out on parade.
Although pet costumes are charming, they can cause your pet unnecessary stress and anxiety. In the days leading up to Halloween, check to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable in their disguise.
- Not too tight, not too loose — The costume should allow your pet to breathe and move freely without restricting their neck, chest, or limbs. Loose fabric can be equally dangerous, tripping or entangling your pet.
- To eat or not to eat — Small decorations, ties, and buttons can look like toys that your pet may chew or swallow. Remove or secure any possible temptations.
- See no evil? — Check hats and hoods to ensure your pet can see. Obstructed vision can be scary or cause pets to fall.
Keep your pet confined or leashed if you have visitors
Halloween isn’t the time to show off your pet’s good manners—instead, show off your responsible pet ownership skills. Friendly dogs should remain leashed while greeting trick-or-treaters, and cats should be kept in a secure cage or crate. These simple actions prevent pets from becoming overly frightened—or curious—and escaping.
For the greatest peace of mind, ensure your pet’s collar is well-fitted with legible, up-to-date contact information. Also, ensure they are microchipped at Madison Street Animal Hospital and their registry details are current.
Don’t let Halloween “how-do-you-do’s” turn into a horror show for your pet. Provide your dog or cat with the support and attention they need and keep them safe on the spookiest night of the year. For additional tips on reducing pet anxiety before Halloween, contact Madison Street Animal Hospital.
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