Halloween can be unpredictable for our four-legged friends. What other day of the year includes crazy decorations, lots of candy, and children frequently ringing the doorbell demanding a treat? Your house may have been quieter than normal because of COVID-19, and sudden activity can be especially nervewracking for your pets. Here are six tips to keep them safe and calm this Halloween.

#1: Keep your pet safely contained

A pet can easily slip out the door during all the Halloween activity, so now is the time to ensure their nametag and microchip are current. On Halloween Eve, bring your pets inside before night falls and trick-or-treaters begin to arrive. Your pet will need a quiet place to hide while masked strangers are roaming the streets, so secure them in a room or crate, and relax knowing that your potential escape artist is well-identified and safe. Halloween is especially unsafe for black cats that may escape, as they often fall victim to malicious pranks. 

#2: Reduce your pet’s stress

Pets prefer a consistent routine, and Halloween is definitely out of the norm. Playing music or TV in their designated space can comfort them. Also, ensure you include some treats, toys, water, a comfortable bed, and a litter box for a cat, and consider a food puzzle or game to help keep your pet occupied. Pheromone analogs, such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats, can be used to provide a greater sense of well-being. As a Fear Free Certified Practice, the Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team is familiar with ways to alleviate your pet’s fear, anxiety, or stress, so don’t hesitate to check with us for calming medications prior to the holiday.

#3: Pet-proof your decorations

Your dog can’t digest those scary rubber spiders or eyeballs, if swallowed, and cats cannot resist fake spider webs. Real candles can get tipped over, and battery-operated ones can still be spooky. Your dog may think glow sticks look like a great chew toy, but they can cause nausea and local irritation. Be careful with decorations with electrical cords, which may be fair game to chew. Take a good look around your house to ensure that the type and location of Halloween decorations won’t pose any problems for your pet.

#4: Pet-proof your candy

Dogs like chocolate—but please, resist the urge to share. Chocolate is toxic to all pets, especially dark chocolate, because animals don’t metabolize theobromine the same way as humans. Chocolate toxicity signs include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and seizures. If your health-conscious neighbors hand out boxes of raisins as treats, be aware that they can cause kidney failure in your pet. Sugar-free candy or gum with xylitol results in precipitous drops in blood glucose levels, and signs can include vomiting, lethargy, staggering, and collapse. Sticks and wrappers can cause an intestinal blockage that requires surgery. Bottom line—ensure you store your candy treasures in an area inaccessible to your pet. If you suspect your pet has ingested Halloween treats, call Gentle Touch Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline at 888-426-4435 immediately.  

#5: Trick-or-treating with your pet

If you plan on trick-or-treating with your pet, control them with a snug collar or harness, and a leash, and consider a light-reflective vest so they can be seen in the dark. Pets who love kids can still become frightened by groups of costumed children running around, and may feel more secure at home in their safe space.  

#6: Pet costume etiquette

We all enjoy seeing how funny our pets look in costume, but does your pet like to dress up? Some pets do, and others make clear that a costume is not for them. Your pet’s costume must be the right size, and comfortable, with no strings or buttons that can be eaten. Pets should wear costumes only under supervision, to ensure they don’t get tangled up, or chew them.

Halloween is the one night of the year designed to be both scary and fun. Plan ahead to make the holiday less scary for your pet, and more fun for you. Contact our team if you need help planning for the holiday and reducing your pet’s stress.