The thrills and chills of Halloween make it one of our favorite holidays. Spooky season only comes once a year and it’s important to make sure everyone has a safe and happy Halloween, including your beloved dogs and cats.
Pet safety is especially important if you’ve become a new pet parent or added to your fur-family since last Halloween, as you don’t know how your new pooch or kitty will react. By being aware of the potential dangers and planning for them, you can make this year’s Halloween a fright night that’s memorable for the right reasons.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe this Halloween
Maybe there’s an open bowl of goodies sitting out at the Halloween party, or the kids drop candy on the floor, or the cabinet door to the secret stash of sweets is left open. The next thing you know, your precious dog or cat is staring up at you with a mouthful of Skittles and Twix.
Halloween candy can pose a serious health risk to your kitty or pup. Chocolate and the artificial sweetener xylitol are known toxins for pets, as are other common candy components like macadamia nuts and raisins. Watch out for candy wrappers, too — even if there’s no chocolate left in them, it’s not good to have a belly full of plastic. The wrappers can ball up and even block your dog’s digestive tract if Fido got into the trash and ate quite a few.
Other food-related hazards for your pets at Halloween include jack-o-lanterns, which accumulate bacteria that can make pets sick if eaten, or the consumption of human foods and drinks (be careful if your Halloween party has an open snack bar).
Before Halloween we recommend placing a note with the phone number for the ASPCA Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline (888-426-4435) in an obvious place like a fridge or message board. They even have a mobile app you can download in advance. It’s also a good idea to jot down your veterinarian’s number and the number of your local emergency animal hospital.
Dressing up is one of the best parts of Halloween. If your pet enjoys being in costume, you probably have something adorable picked out — but it’s best to double check that there’s no risk of harm to your little buddy.
The costume you put on your pet should not chafe or rub, cause them to overheat or be able to catch on something. It also should not restrict your pet’s vision, hearing, easy movement or breathing in any way. Always take off your pet’s costume at the first sign of stress or discomfort. The cuteness isn’t worth an upset pooch!
With any costume (on a human or animal) watch out for buttons or hanging threads that may be tempting for your pet to grab or chew. Be especially careful of costume wigs: “hairy” items like these are one of the worst things for your pet to ingest, as the fibers can wrap around their intestines and seriously damage them. Keep pets away from your wig and don’t let them wear one themselves without supervision. Plastic beads, fake nails and rubber eyes are other common culprits for a pet to swallow.
When it comes to fake blood, face paints or hair dyes, these products are almost always nontoxic but still have an unpleasant taste. If your pet licks your gruesome ‘wound’ you may notice them drooling, drinking excess water or simply being distressed at the experience.
Finally, if your Halloween costume includes props or accessories, be aware of where they are at all times. It’s easy to set down a witch’s wand, fake axe or other item and not notice when your dog or cat scampers away with it.
From dancing skeletons to dangling spiderwebs, Halloween decorations are a great way to get into the spooky spirit. However, it’s easy to forget that decorations bring extra risks to a normally pet-proofed home.
Anything can be a chew toy to your curious kitty or pup. Plastic decorations, especially those with electronic wires or battery boxes, need to be inspected regularly so you know as soon as your pet starts nibbling on them. Fake cobwebs can be ingested by or get tangled on your pet and balloons often make tempting targets as well.
Glow sticks are commonly used in both costumes and decor. If your pet manages to crunch one open, don’t panic! The liquid inside is generally nontoxic, although it is very bitter. Depending on how sensitive your pet is to the taste they may show some distress, drool excessively or want water to wash it away.
However, consumption of liquid potpourri is something to take seriously. Liquid potpourri is very toxic for both dogs and cats. Contact your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center immediately if you think any has been ingested. Depending on the oils used, some potpourri can be toxic for pets just to breathe in, even if they don’t eat it! Because of the risks involved we strongly suggest staying away from all potpourri for a pet-safe Halloween.
If you use any candles or other flames, practice good fire safety by ensuring your pet is unable to knock them over. Cats especially seem fascinated by fire and often singe their little whiskers by mistake!
Finally, to create that spooky Halloween atmosphere it’s popular to use fog machines filled with dry ice. The biggest danger of dry ice comes from your dog or cat touching, licking or even eating it. Dry ice burns on contact and if ingested, it will burn your pet’s throat and stomach. (That’s true for humans too, by the way — only handle dry ice with gloves and don’t let anyone touch dry ice with bare skin!). The smoke created by dry ice is carbon dioxide, which is non-toxic and won’t do any harm as long as the room or area is outside or well-ventilated.
As long as your pet can’t access the dry ice and can move out of the vapor if they choose, the risks to your pet if you do use a fog machine are low. We advise that you keep an eye on your pets regardless and remove them from the area if they appear disoriented.
It’s a night of frights, but Halloween should still be fun for the whole family — your pets included. Your fur-baby’s emotional well-being is just as important as their physical safety. A stressed pet may chew something they shouldn’t, hurt themselves trying to escape or even bite or scratch out of fear.
Perhaps the greatest stress hazard for pets on Halloween comes from the littlest goblins and ghouls: children. Excited children may be jumping around, screaming, roaring like animals or otherwise acting very strangely in your pet’s eyes! Even a friendly pup who is normally good with kids may be overwhelmed by the strange sights, sounds and costumes. They may not even recognize the children they regularly play with.
Young, excited or sugar-crazed kids may want to feed or pet your dog and may not understand pet safety or recognize your buddy’s signals that they don’t want to be touched. Even if you think your mild-mannered pooch would never bite or growl, recognize that any animal that is scared may defend themselves. (Think about it — if Freddy Krueger tried to pet your face, wouldn’t you react??)
The same also applies for cats. Cats are creatures of habit and may be alarmed by all the unexpected activity. You may be dying for some adorable Halloween photos with your kitty (particularly if you have a black cat) but for the sake of your fur-baby’s well-being, don’t force Whiskers to approach a Halloween decoration that scares her or sit in the arms of an unfamiliar stranger (and remember, on Halloween night that stranger may be you!).
To reduce everyone’s stress all around, we suggest you designate a “safe room” for your dog or cat where you can confine them during your Halloween party or during peak trick-or-treating hours. Stock this room with your pet’s bed, water, toys, litter box, scratching post and anything else they may need to feel calm and reassured. Consider setting up some white noise or music for your pal — did you know there’s entire YouTube channels, TV stations, radio stations and albums dedicated to pet-friendly music?
Check in on your pet frequently to ensure they haven’t pottied indoors, destroyed something or created a choking hazard. Even pets that don’t normally destroy toys may start pulling the stuffing out of their teddy bear when stressed. If you swing by our VE RAW BAR in advance of Halloween, you can pick up a nutritious chew like a Pig Ear or Bully Stick for the perfect Halloween snack that gives your pet something safe to gnaw on while they rest. You may also want to fill a puzzle toy with Vital Essentials freeze-dried treats to keep your pet distracted from the commotion happening outside their sanctuary.
Halloween may be second only to the Fourth of July as a day when frightened pets hit the road. If you know your pet’s a door-dasher, save yourself the trouble of wrangling them away from the door every time a trick-or-treater appears by keeping them in their safe room. If you can, it might even be best to sit outside on your porch and meet trick-or-treaters there to save your pets the whole experience.
If you do go out trick-or-treating, only take Fido along if he is an exceptionally chill pooch and keep him on a leash at all times. You never know when the clown with a chainsaw will be the final straw for your pup! Plan ahead for someone to be able to take your dog home early if they obviously aren’t enjoying themselves.
Finally, to prepare for any Houdini-esque feat, make sure all your pets have the right ID tags with your contact info and are also microchipped — widely considered the #1 way to reunite a lost pet.
To ensure your fur-family has a pet-safe Halloween, prepare in advance for the potential dangers of food, costumes, decorations and stressful situations. By planning ahead and minimizing the risk of disaster, you’ll feel confident about the upcoming holiday and have a howling good time with your spooky sidekicks this Halloween!