Halloween is right around the corner, and along with it comes the trick or treaters, the steady stream of candy, the festive decorations, and the creative costumes! This sounds like every child and Halloween enthusiast’s treat, but it can quickly turn into a tricky nightmare for unprepared pets.
Leave the mischief and mysteriousness of the holiday up to the haunted houses, horror movies, and the neighborhood children wondering what candy they’ll receive. Don’t let your dog or cat’s health remain a mystery to be solved this Halloween. Instead, be aware of the possible pet dangers around All Hallows’ Eve.
The first thing that people equip themselves with for Halloween is candy, of course! Whether you’re dishing it out to the local trick or treaters or the one dashing door to door for a treat, you’re bound to find it in your household one way or another. With such an assortment of sweets that are given out, remember that candies are not meant to be consumed by your pet.
- Chocolate is notoriously known for being dangerous, and even fatal, for dogs, and lesser known, cats. It contains theobromine, which is toxic to our companion animals. It’s easy for human bodies to naturally digest, but not theirs. Ingesting chocolate can lead to serious issues related to breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, etc.
- On the other end of the spectrum from chocolate, in all its sugary glory, is candy that uses the artificial sweetener xylitol. Found in mints, sugar free gum, and sometimes chocolate, this can leave your pet severely sick or even dead.
- Other treats not safe for animals include raisins (especially the chocolate covered kind), harder candies (can cause obstruction or choking), and last but not least, the wrappers or packaging of any of these products/candies.
Doorbell & Greetings
Doorbells are not always the most pleasant sound for pets to hear, especially for dogs. As many pet parents already know, canines often make it their very own personal mission to bark each and every time there’s a knock at the door or someone rings the bell. Whether it’s because they feel excited or nervous at the sound or want to alert you as the owner of the household, they’ll likely bark. This can get tiring if you have a particularly busy neighborhood that receives a lot of trick or treaters.
Formulate a plan for how to deal with this. Will you disable the doorbell? Will you place the bowl of candy outside your door instead? Will you train your dog not to bark or feel fearful? Will you keep them away from the door?
Particularly important is the question of where your dog or cat will be on the night of Halloween. If you will allow them to greet people at the door when they ask for candy, make sure that your companion is well socialized and will not turn to any aggressive behaviors like biting, barking, meowing, scratching, or jumping. This can leave your visitors in for a scare that they weren’t expecting - even on Halloween.
Do your best to keep your dog or cat indoors on Halloween. This is the night where people let loose and often whip out a few of their newest tricks or pranks. It’s not uncommon for pets to be put in danger if they get caught up in these scandals. Don’t leave them unattended in your backyard or front yard. Also make certain that they don’t dart out the door every time you open it to hand out candy. Supervise them at all times and keep a leash on them for when you do need to go outdoors. Keep an ID tag on their collar in case they’re separated from you and get lost in the crowd.
Pet costume possibilities are endless. While we all definitely want to see a dog dressed up as a hot dog or a cat dressed up as The Cat in the Hat from Dr. Suess, don’t just assume your companion will be as eager about it as you are. Put the costume on before the big day and allow them time to adjust. Make sure that they can still comfortably see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. If they don’t seem to like it or feel uneasy, try a different costume or simply don’t force them to wear one. If they do accept the costume, keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t eat any small parts of it, overheat, or have a difficult time breathing.
Decorations are what Halloween fanatics would consider essential. The fake cobwebs, the pumpkins, the ghouls, the goblins, the candles, all of it. They’re certainly fun, and can absolutely continue to be as long as you place them in areas out of your dog or cat’s reach. They all have the potential to possibly harm your furry friend, as they could ingest it, choke on it, or even be electrocuted if it requires being plugged in.
Here are commonly used Halloween decorations that could hurt your pet:
- Lit candles - The flame could burn your pet if they brush past it or accidentally topple it over. Opt for battery powered LED candles if possible (though even these have their own risks).
- Pumpkins and decorational vegetables/fruits - While some of these can be fed to your pet, excessive amounts of it can cause gastrointestinal upset. Not only that, but they may be getting their paws on a food item that unknowingly has mold or bacteria on it, paving the way for sickness.
- Glowsticks / Glow jewelry - These fun Halloween accessories contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. It’s an overall non-toxic, safe addition to the glowstick, but can still cause upsetting reactions in your pets. Cats are especially fond of nibbling and chewing at glowsticks. Breaking one open can cause drooling, irritated skin, and vomiting. And they downright just don’t taste pleasant.
- Fake insects - Commonly made from plastic or rubber, fake critters laying around your floor or table can easily be eaten by your curious comrades. Keep them out of reach to prevent choking or obstruction.
Halloween is an overall busy holiday. Most pets get riled up at the mailman visiting once a day, let alone groups of people ringing the doorbell, approaching the door for candy, and waiting at the front of the household for an entire day. On top of that there’s the overload of decorations, new scents from your latest fall candle collection, and the sound of screaming, yelling, and laughing. Sure, these are all the things that make Halloween so special for people. But it’s what can often overwhelm their pets, too. As much as possible, monitor your pet to see how their stress or anxiety levels are doing. Do what you can to mitigate it, and do what you can to keep them away from the pet dangers of Halloween.