October 31st is a day of celebration, and like any pet parent, you always want your fur baby to join in the fun along with the family. But the Halloween season is one time when you should be more cautious than usual, even if that means taking your pet away from the festivities. “We always see an increase in pets coming in with gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and ingestion of foreign bodies during Halloween time,” says Bethany Howe, a veterinarian at Hawkins Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Ronkonkoma, NY. Here’s a list of key Halloween safety tips to help ensure that your Halloween-ready dog (or Halloween-ready cat) can enjoy the season.
1. Keep candy out of sight. Perhaps the biggest threat to our pets is all the candy hanging around. None of it is good for your pet to eat, and some types (chocolate and sugar-free candy and gum containing xylitol, to name just a few) are toxic. It’s crucial to keep it all well away from your pet, insists Dr. Howe.
2. Decorate cautiously. Electric cords are another big Halloween hazard to pets, says Dr. Howe—they can easily chew on them or get tangled up. When possible, opt for decorations that work on batteries rather than cords. If you must use cords, run them so that they are out of your pet’s reach.
3. Distance pets from the action. Many dogs have gotten loose walking right out the door through a crowd of giggling goblins. And if your dog does get out, the situation can go from bad to worse, regardless of whether he knows the neighborhood like the back of his paw. The crowds of funny-looking strangers, flashlights and spooky lawn decorations (to say nothing of fellow neighborhood dogs in costumes, smelling the same but looking quite different!) can disorient and panic him, upping the odds he’ll get far from home fast. The Platinum Pets Pawsitively Safe Pet Finder Tag can help reunite you with your lost friend if he does get loose, not just on Halloween, but all year round.
During trick-or-treating hours on the big day, the best course of action is to keep your pets safely crated or penned, out of sight of the front door. The Frisco Dog Exercise Pen is a great option that comes in five sizes to suit all breeds of dogs.
What is top among Dr. Howe’s Halloween safety tips? “Keep black and black and white cats inside. There is always a rise in acts against these guys around Halloween, believe it or not.”
4. Corral kid accessories. If you have children, take a look at their costumes to check for components that could be a hazard to your pets. Anything that is shiny (say, an angel’s golden halo), glittery (Dorothy’s ruby slippers) or makes noise (a clown’s squeaky nose) is apt to catch your dog or cat’s eye. From there, it’s a short trip to his mouth or even his stomach! When your child isn’t wearing her costume, make sure it’s tucked away where your pet can’t see it. This goes for the treat bag as well. Those are often festooned with small pom-poms, jingly bells or googly eyes, all of which can be a choking hazard to your pet.
5. Enjoy costumes with care. There is nothing cuter than dogs in costumes (besides kitties in costumes, which are also pretty darn irresistible). Dressing up pets can be the best part of Halloween for a pet parent. That said, when dressing up your darling, you do need to observe a few ground rules for her well-being. First and foremost: Follow your pet’s lead. Plenty of Halloween-loving dogs, and even Halloween cats, are chill about getting all decked out, and seem to enjoy the attention. If your pet is not one of those, you’ll find out quickly. Never force a pet into a costume, and if at any point he seems uncomfortable, take it off. Second: keep dress-up sessions supervised and brief. An Instagram photo shoot is fine; leaving your Dachshund dressed as a hot dog all day and night is not. Be sure that any Halloween dog costume or Halloween cat costume fits properly. One that is too small will be uncomfortable and impede your pet’s movements. One that is too big can cause your pet to stumble or get caught on something.
6. Watch for signs of anxiety. Halloween is a time of year that can up anxiety levels in pets. The continuously ringing doorbell and the commotion can unnerve even the most laid-back of canines. His long nightly walk, a routine he normally enjoys, can even set him on edge as he passes dogs in costumes or houses with creepy music and howling ghosts fluttering in the wind. “Generally, panting, hiding, excessive barking and pacing are all signs of anxiety,” says Dr. Howe. “Also, anxious cats may defecate or urinate outside of the litter box.” If this occurs, it would be wise to take your pet to the vet to rule out medical problems. If you are sure it’s anxiety that is causing the symptoms, you might consider an all-natural supplement to help your dog relax during short-term stressful situations—like your annual Halloween party. Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Dog Chews use L-Theanine and vitamin B to calm your dog without sedating him. Another popular solution—one that might come in handy on that suddenly spooky nightly walk—is Thundershirt, paired with ThunderLeash Retractable Leash. The gentle, constant pressure of the vest-like accessory has been shown to have a calming effect on most dogs. There’s even a Thundershirt for cats to help calm frantic felines.
For a calming solution you’ll enjoy as much as your dog, you might want to plug in the Pet Remedy Natural De-Stress and Calming for Pets Diffuser. The solution contains a clinically proven blend of valerian, vetiver and other calming essential oils that enhances the production of a neurotransmitter that helps calm nerves for the ultimate stress relief.