Image via AnnyStudio/Shutterstock.com
By Kate Hughes
Halloween is a fun holiday for the whole family and you’ll likely want to include your favorite four-legged friend in on the celebration. However, it’s imperative that pet parents practice Halloween safety for pets on the spookiest day of the year. This includes never putting your pet in a situation that could endanger her.
You may be eager to get your pet in on the fun, but to help keep them safe this Halloween, here are five things you should never do to your pet on Halloween.
1. Never Put Them in Uncomfortable Pet Costumes
There is nothing more adorable than a cat or dog wearing a costume. That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind before assuming that your kitty or doggy will be okay with dressing up for Halloween.
“First you have to consider your pet’s personality and overall behavior,” says Dr. Carly Fox, DVM, a staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center who specializes in emergency and critical care. “Some animals are totally fine being dressed up, but others are not.”
This comes down to knowing how to interpret your pet’s body language in order to determine if wearing a costume will be too overwhelming or upsetting for them.
If you have a pet who doesn’t mind costumes, you should look for costumes that don’t limit your pet’s movement, hearing, eyesight, or their ability to eat or drink water.
You should also make sure that pet costumes that are the correct size. A costume that’s too loose could cause your pet to trip or get stuck on something, and a costume that’s too tight is very uncomfortable and could cause irritation by rubbing against your pet’s skin.
Banfield Pet Hospital’s Dr. Kathryn Boyle, DVM, adds to these Halloween pet safety tips, suggesting to “Be mindful of accessories, such as strings, capes or belts, which can get caught in objects in your house.”
Dr. Fox notes that it isn’t an “all or nothing” situation. “Maybe your dog is fine wearing something around her neck, but will not wear a hat. You just have to know your animal and be mindful of their comfort.”
Both Dr. Fox and Dr. Boyle add that you should watch your pet closely and never leave her alone while she is wearing a costume.
2. Never Use Dangerous Halloween Decorations
While Halloween is a particularly fun holiday to decorate for, both Dr. Fox and Dr. Boyle caution that certain decorations pose a risk to pet safety.
“Decorations can result in a scary situation for pets,” Dr. Boyle says. “Tinsel, ribbon and string are dangers for pets, as they may cause severe injury to the intestinal tract if swallowed. Keep electric twinkle lights and extension cords elevated to a height your pet can’t reach to avoid chewing. Pets can also burn themselves or knock over a candle, creating a fire hazard, so keep lit candles or pumpkins far from wagging tails and curious noses and whiskers.”
Dr. Fox adds that the dried corn decorations that are popular not just for Halloween, but throughout the fall season, can be extremely dangerous for dogs. “Halloween is a busy time for us in the emergency room, and I’ve seen a lot of dogs that have ingested these decorations. The dried corn can cause an intestinal obstruction, which is extremely serious.”
3. Never Serve Food That’s Toxic to Dogs
Dr. Boyle says that while most pet safety rules specify not giving your animals “people food,” certain Halloween treats are especially dangerous for pets. These include chocolate, which contains theobromine, a substance that can be toxic to pets, as well as raisins, candy, and plastic and foil packaging. “Foil wrappers can become as dangerous as razors when swallowed,” she says.
Dr. Fox notes that if you’re having a party, you should also be very careful that your dog or cat doesn’t get into any appetizers on toothpicks or skewers. “These can be very dangerous if ingested,” she says.
To ensure pet safety, Dr. Fox suggests keeping food on high surfaces that your pet cannot reach and avoiding leaving candy and people food on lower areas like a coffee table.
She also says that if you’re having a Halloween party, you cannot expect your guests to know or remember to follow pet safety rules. “People who don’t have dogs or cats are not aware that certain foods—like chocolate and grapes—are toxic to pets. I would suggest not serving those foods at a party, just in case.”
4. Never Use Human Hair Dye on Pets
Over the past few years, dyeing your pet has become a bit of a trend around Halloween. However, neither Dr. Boyle nor Dr. Fox recommend dyeing pets for the holiday.
“It can be unnecessarily stressful for the pet, and many dyes contain toxins that can irritate your pet’s skin,” Dr. Boyle says.
Dr. Fox agrees and adds that if you have your heart set on dyeing your pet, you should work with a groomer. “Groomers know what’s best for your dog’s fur and skin, and they’re the ones with the experience,” she says. “A lot of dogs have sensitive skin, and a lot of them have allergies, so you need to keep that in mind before deciding to dye.”
Never, ever use a dye that wasn’t specifically formulated for use on cats and dogs.
5. Never Take Your Anxious Dog Trick-or-Treating
Of course, one of the best parts of Halloween is going trick-or-treating. However, if you want to take your dog with you, you should be sure he’s comfortable in crowded areas and won’t be overwhelmed by kids roaming the streets.
“A long walk on Halloween is really nice for a dog that’s used to kids and lots of people,” Dr. Fox says.
Even if your pet is usually fine in crowds, it is important to keep in mind that on Halloween, everyone is in costumes. That means your pup will be exposed to masks, wigs, elaborate makeup and other elements that your pet is most likely not accustomed to. So keep your pet’s comfort in the forefront of your mind when making decisions about taking them out on Halloween.
Besides going trick-or-treating with your pet, another option would be to attend a pet-focused event, like a dog parade. “You don’t even have to dress your dog up; you can just go and bring them to be a part of the festivities and see all the other dogs in costume,” Dr. Fox says.
While Halloween can be a great night out for dogs, Dr. Fox does note that the same does not hold true for cats. “If your cat goes outside, I recommend keeping him in on Halloween. You never know what’s going to happen—there are a lot of people out, many of who may have been drinking. It’s just safer for kitties to be indoors on Halloween.”