Despite your ambitious intentions, you’ve managed only to frighten your pet with your Halloween decorations. The six-foot-tall skeleton lawn ornament and the inflatable Frankenstein have sent your dog under the bed, and your cat to the closet—and with trick-or-treaters to greet and a party to host, their feelings are unlikely to change any time soon.

Halloween’s strange and spooky traditions can cause pets fear, anxiety, and stress. Learn how to recognize their discomfort, and keep them safe, with five Halloween pet tips from Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital

#1: Keep pets confined during Halloween festivities

While you’ve had months to prepare for Halloween, your pet’s whole world is transformed seemingly overnight. Scary costumes, unusual sounds, unfamiliar people, and animated decorations may cause your pet to panic and flee. With so many people coming and going, you may not notice your pet’s absence right away. 

Give your pet peace from Halloween frights, and prioritize their safety by:

  • Creating a quiet space — Confine your pet to a small room or their crate during the festivities. Provide a comfy bed, toys, water, and litter box, and leave the television on, to drown out any spooky background noise. 
  • Ensuring their identification is current — Check your pet’s tags, collar, and microchip registration for current contact information. If your pet isn’t microchipped, schedule an appointment at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital, and give your pet the gift of permanent identification.  
  • Minimizing potential triggers Eliminate repetitive knocking or doorbell-ringing by sitting outside to greet trick-or-treaters.

While making your pet miss out on the holiday may seem cruel, it’s better than having your pet go missing.

#2: Keep your pet’s paws off dangerous Halloween sweets

Pets are naturally attracted to candy for the same reasons we are—the sweet smell, taste, and colorful wrapping tempt us to eat one, then another, and then one more. Unfortunately, when your pet consumes candy, they suffer from more than a little extra “fluff.” Dogs and cats are sensitive to many candy and holiday food ingredients, including:

  • Chocolate — Chocolate toxicity can cause dangerous arrhythmias, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, and death. Dark, bitter, and baking chocolate are especially dangerous for dogs and cats.
  • Xylitol — Ingestion of xylitol, a sweetener found in sugar-free gum, candy, cough drops, and some snack products, causes dangerously low blood glucose, seizures, and liver damage in pets.
  • Raisins and grapes Both snacks can lead to rapid kidney failure in some dogs.
  • Macadamia nuts — Found in some chocolate candies, these nuts cause weakness, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia.
  • Garlic — if you’ve decorated your home with a few bulbs to ward off vampires, you may be endangering your pet’s life. Garlic and onions cause gastrointestinal upset and red blood cell damage. 

If you know or suspect your pet has consumed candy, candy wrappers, or another household pet toxin, immediately call Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center

#3: Don’t take your pet trick-or-treating

If you’re envisioning your costumed dog walking beside your kids as they go door-to-door, you may be trapped in a Hallmark movie. This is a heartwarming, but unrealistic, image. Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital strongly discourages taking your pet trick-or-treating for the following reasons:

  • Many dogs react poorly to sudden sounds, strange shapes (e.g., costumes, lawn decorations), and unrecognizable humans or other dogs.
  • Pet costumes restrict natural movement and may heighten your dog’s stress, by making them feel trapped. 
  • Costumes change a person’s shape, smell, and outline, making it hard for a dog to interpret body language, especially in the dark. Dogs may react with defensive aggression toward a perceived threat.

Give your dog some extra attention and exercise in the early afternoon, and then leave them at home with a food-stuffed Kong toy during trick-or-treating. 

#4: Ensure your pet’s costume is safe and not stressful

Costumed pets can make a great social media moment, but some pets find playing dress-up threatening and restrictive. This year, try altering your pet’s photo instead of dressing them up. Apps like Canva allow you to photoshop your “Puppy Yoda” with no stress for your pet. 

#5: Decorate carefully around pets

Your pet’s home is their territory, so the sudden arrival of Halloween decorations can be perceived as a threat. Some creepy characters may keep pets from accessing important resources, such as food, water, and the litter box. If your pet reacts negatively to your decor, move the offensive items from your pet’s area. 

Your pet’s assessment is correct—decorations are a threat. Many popular decorations pose serious harm to dogs and cats:

  • Candles — An obvious burn and fire hazard
  • Party lights — Pets may chew the electrical wiring or battery box
  • Spider webs — May entangle or choke curious pets
  • Small toys — May cause intestinal blockage, if consumed
  • Glow sticks and jewelry — The chemical contents can cause coughing, gagging, vomiting, and intense irritation

Don’t be surprised by your pet’s behavior this Halloween—instead, see the holiday from their perspective, and prioritize their comfort and safety. This may mean shuttling that skeleton lawn ornament back to the store, but your pet’s well-being is more valuable than that ol’ bag of bones, anyway.

If you have additional questions about keeping your pet safe this Halloween, contact Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital.