Lights and decorations. Costumes and masks. A constant parade of strangers at the door. Without question, Halloween can be a downright spooky experience for our pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips on what pet owners can do to make Halloween safer for their furry friends:
- Halloween means a lot of candy in the house and a lot of sharing of that candy. Although it might be a little tough to turn down those begging eyes, it’s best to refrain from feeding your pets Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol (a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies and gum).
- With so many people coming to the door, use your best judgment as to whether or not to allow your pet to tag alongside you when you answer it. On the one hand, if you have a cat that takes every opportunity it can to sneak out the door, you want to make sure the cat is in a safe room and can’t try to make a jail break when the doorbell rings and you’re handing out treats. On the other hand, if you have a dog that is friendly, greets people and is well-behaved, you can probably let them come to the door with you. Or, if your pet is wary of strangers or has a tendency to bite, put him or her in another room during trick-or-treating hours or provide him or her with a quiet, safe hiding place inside and away from activity. As a precaution, make sure your pet is properly identified (microchip, collar and ID tag) in case he or she escapes through the open door while you're distracted with trick-or-treaters.
- Keep your pet inside. However, if you’re considering taking your pet with you when you go trick-or-treating, remember that it’s safety first. You don’t want to take your dog with you unless it’s well-behaved and has good leash manners because there is some risk of injury with many kids running around. You don’t want to stress out your dog either. Also, be mindful that, a lot of times, a piece of candy will drop on the sidewalk or on the grass. You want to make sure your dog is not going to scoop it up and eat it without you knowing, and you’re dealing with a sick dog later because you didn’t know what it ate.
- It seems like Halloween is approaching Christmas on the scale of decorations people like to hang. Often times, these decorations are not pet friendly, or designed to be pet friendly, as there may be some pieces that can be chewed off and cause an obstruction in their stomach which can be life-threatening or require some surgery. It is best to keep lit candles, jack-o-lanterns, glow sticks, glow jewelry and other decorations out of pets’ reach.
- Dressing up pets for Halloween is becoming a growing trend. A lot of people like to not only have their kids in costumes, but have their dogs and cats in costumes as well. If you plan to put a costume on your pet, make sure they will tolerate it, it fits properly and is comfortable, doesn't have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn't interfere with your pet's sight, hearing, breathing, opening its mouth or moving. There are a lot of costumes that are designed specifically for pets, and those are probably the safer route to go because the designers already thought of the little pieces that could fall off or be chewed off and create potential problems. Take time to get your pet accustomed to the costume before Halloween, and never leave your pet unsupervised while he or she is wearing a costume.
For more advice on ensuring your pet’s health and safety this Halloween, please visit avma.org/Halloween.