5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
By Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on Sep. 20, 2022

Halloween can be fun for people as we celebrate the fall and transition into the colder months of the year. However, animals can become very stressed with the unusual sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday. Not only can it be frightening for the family pets, but it can also be dangerous. Many candies can be toxic to animals, pet costumes can range from uncomfortable to unsafe, and decorations might tempt our pets and expose them to something harmful. So, a little extra precaution is needed to safely celebrate this special day with your pets.

Keep Treats Out of Reach

Those tempting bowls of candy are seemingly everywhere during the season. While these bowls of candy may simply be tempting to you, they can be dangerous for your pets.

Perhaps the largest concern comes from sugar-free candies containing xylitol. Even a small amount of xylitol can be fatal to dogs and cats. Be sure to keep any products containing xylitol away from your animals. If you think they might have ingested any candy containing xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Another more recognized danger is chocolate, especially dark or baking chocolates. Chocolates contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs and cats. As a rule, very small amounts of milk chocolate are likely to be safe, but any amount of baking chocolate may be a concern.

If your pet has eaten chocolate, call your veterinarian right away. It is helpful to know what type of chocolate it was (baking, dark, milk, etc.) and how much might have been eaten.

Fortunately, there are plenty of pet-safe Halloween recipes you can create for your pet to enjoy safely.

Pet Costumes Are Cute, But Can Be Dangerous

Yes, your dog looks adorable dressed as a red and black ladybug—and your cat has a positively disgusted look on its face when you put those pointed ears on its head. As cute as they are, however, costumes are not right for every pet.

Costumes need to fit properly without restricting movement, causing trouble breathing, or rubbing anywhere that might cause bare spots or sores. Pets can’t tell us what is bothering them about a costume and may simply react by wanting it off. In the process, they may chew off and ingest a portion of the costume, which may cause intestinal obstructions or other emergency conditions.

If you want to put a costume on your pet, make sure it fits properly, and then supervise your pet the entire time it wears the costume. Leave it on for as short period of time (taking some cute photos to share with friends and family) and then remove the costume before it makes your pet too uncomfortable or winds up with costume fragments in its stomach.

Ensure Decorations Are Safely Placed

Decorations are one of the most appealing things about Halloween. But when they are explored by curious pets, they can sometimes lead to problems.

One of the most overlooked worries is an open flame. If your pet jumps up near a pumpkin with a candle inside, it is certainly possible for it to start a fire, singe its feet, or burn its fur. Make sure any open flames are stored high and away from the interested paws of your pet(s).

Many other decorations may contain wires, which is another problem, particularly if chewed. Mouth burns are not unusual in puppies and kittens who have bitten into cords associated with holiday decorations. Running the wires through conduit, PVC, or even fish tank tubing can provide good temporary protection.

Many items can get stuck in the intestinal tract after being consumed, especially longer stringy decorations or those that make up spider webs. Keep all the decorations up high and out of the reach of your pet.

As a rule, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds are safe for dogs and cats in small quantities. If the pumpkin or seeds were moldy or rotting, however, this is a concern. A chunk of the pumpkin rind could cause an intestinal obstruction. If you have any doubts, call your veterinarian for advice.

Keep Anxious Pets Calm During Activity

One of the most common worries for both dogs and cats is the stress caused by Halloween. The doorbell may ring constantly, as trick-or-treaters arrive. This type of activity can be confusing and frightening to your pets.

The constant opening and closing of the door can provide an opportunity for a frightened animal to run out into a dark night. This can result in all kinds of frightening consequences, and in some areas, black cats are particularly prone to abuse on Halloween.

The safest option for your pet is to provide it with a private safe zone. Turning on music or the TV can help mask the sounds of the doorbell ringing, and some of the unusual noises associated with  Halloween festivities. Some people will use tricks like ThunderShirts to help calm a frightened pet, and others will even board their pets, particularly if they are holding a Halloween party or are expecting many visitors.

Usually, a stressed animal will prefer being in a quiet place and left out of the festivities, even if that means a boarding kennel for the night. In all cases, it is important to minimize the stress the evening could cause and the risk of escape. If you're having a Halloween party or are greeting trick-or-treaters, keep pets in a safe part of the house where they won't be tempted to run out.

Ensure Pet IDs and Collars Are Updated

Since there is a higher-than-average risk of your pet escaping when doors are opening or closing, make sure that they are wearing their collars with current, updated contact information so they can quickly be returned home. This is a good time to have that microchip data updated as well.

Halloween is a fun and whimsical start to the holiday season, but it can be confusing, frightening, and dangerous to your pet. Fortunately, it is possible to take just a few simple steps to make the holiday fun and safe for all.

Featured Image: iStock.com/svetikd

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields...

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