NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Between the candy, the costumes, and the hijinks, Halloween is one of the most high-spirited holidays of the year, but it can also be one of the most hazardous for furry friends without certain precautions.
VCA Animal Hospitals shared the following advice for pet owners as they prepare to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve:
Leave your pets at home
The best Halloween plan for furry friends is “no tricks, no treats,” according to veterinarians. If you live in a neighborhood where the sidewalks overflow with high-spirited parents and screaming kids on Oct. 31, you should leave your pets at home rather than expose them to such chaos.
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“You may be thinking, ‘Fido loves kids and knows this neighborhood like the back of his paw!’ Even kid-loving dogs, intimately familiar with their normal exercise route, can be thrown off by extra people on the street and may become agitated,” Dr. Ryan Llera and Dr. Lynn Buzhardt explained. “Scary-looking costumed humans that approach for a friendly pat on the head may frighten your dog. This fear reaction can be unsettling for dogs and downright dangerous for trick-or-treaters. Scared dogs, even the nicest ones, may growl and bite when they feel threatened.”
If you do decide to venture out with your dog — or your cat if they’re trained — make sure they’re on a secure, non-retractable leash; keep them close at all times; observe your surroundings; and assess people approaching you.
You should also guard against excited children who want to pet your dog. After all, when you combine physical contact from strangers who don’t look like normal humans on Halloween with a pet’s natural desire to protect its owner, it can spark an aggressive reaction from your animal.
Dress your pets carefully
Even if you have to keep your furry friend at home on Halloween, that doesn’t mean they can’t partake in the festivities! One of the best ways to do that is by dressing them up!
Just like with young children, though, your pet’s costume should be comfortable and safe. For example, the costume shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts their breathing or makes it hard to move, but it also shouldn’t be so loose that it leads to tripping. In addition, the costume should not interfere with the animal’s sight or hearing.
Some costumes can also be dangerous if consumed, so you should also beware of small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed, like buttons or loose strings. Also, steer clear of any hair dyes or paints that your pet could lick off their fur since they may become toxic if ingested. If you can’t avoid using such products, check the label to make sure it’s non-toxic.
If you want to give your animal companion a safe yet stylish way to celebrate the holiday, you can use Halloween-themed bandanas.
Provide your pets with a calm and secure area to spend the night
Dogs that stay at home are not always fans of the neighborhood candy hunt. The doorbell constantly rings and strangers in weird costumes invade their domain. Too many sights! Too many smells! Too many sounds! Even dogs that normally love children can be thrown off by the constant ring of the doorbell or knocking, the sheer number of visitors, and the weird appearance of their human friends! Yesterday, Billy from next door was in play clothes with a smile on his sweet face; tonight, he is a scary pirate. That can be difficult for your dog to process and it may be difficult for him to recognize normally familiar faces.
So many people invading your dog’s territory can be problematic. This “strange” looking person is trespassing on their home turf, which automatically sets off your dog’s protective canine defense mechanism. Then the strange-looking person gets close to you (your dog’s favorite person) as he reaches for candy, which further heightens your dog’s defensive tendencies. What happens if Fido gets so protective, scared, or nervous that he barks, growls, or even snaps at Billy?Dr. Ryan Llera and Dr. Lynn Buzhardt
Unless your pet is really mellow, vets encourage you to let them rest in a room away from the frenzy, behind a closed door. Then, you should turn on a TV, radio, or white noise machine to dull the sound of the doorbell and the energetic trick-or-treaters on the other side. You can even sit outside so you can give the kids their candy before they even reach the front door.
Secure any potential escape routes for your pets
If you think your furry friend would like to help you greet the trick-or-treaters, you should keep them on a leash. Not only will that prevent them from darting out the door after the visitors, but it will also give you control over the animal’s movements in case something triggers an aggressive reaction from them.
If your pet has a history of becoming agitated when strangers visit, the nature of Halloween may cause them to spend the holiday pacing, barking, and whining. In order to keep your furry friend from feeling miserable and anxious all night, you may want to ask your veterinarian for a mild sedative prescription. You can even give the medication to your pet before Oct. 31 in order to assess the impact on them.
Keep Halloween treats away from your pets
While you may want to share the sugary goodness with your furry friend on Halloween, veterinarians recommend keeping all candy out of their reach:
- All forms of chocolate, especially dark and baking chocolate, are toxic for dogs and cats because they contain caffeine and theobromine. When a pet eats chocolate, these chemicals are absorbed from the gut, which impacts the brain, heart, and muscles.
- Candy corn and other candies made with pure sugar can result in severe gas and diarrhea while bite-sized hard candies pose a major choking hazard, according to Pets Best.
- Many sugar-free candies and gum contain a sugar substitute called xylitol, which is also dangerous for dogs, even causing their blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels, leading to seizures and even liver damage.
In addition to the hazards of the candies themselves, animals may also gobble up the cellophane or foil wrappers, which can cause intestinal upset and gastrointestinal blockage.
Even more natural treats, like raisins and caramel apples, should be off-limits.
If you think your pet has ingested something toxic, you are urged to immediately call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
Decorate with your pets’ safety in mind
Even though festive decorations can really put you in the Halloween mood, they can also pose health risks for your furry friend:
- Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds may be non-toxic, but they can upset a pet’s stomach, especially when consumed in large quantities.
- Lit candles in Jack-O-Lanterns can turn into fire hazards when toppled by a curious creature.
- Fall-colored corn cobs can block an animal’s intestinal tract if swallowed, often requiring surgical removal.
- Decorative holiday lights may light up your home or your porch, but both lights and power cords need to be kept out of reach to prevent a pet from nibbling on them.
VCA still encourages pet owners to have fun on Halloween, so go ahead and buy the candy, plan your costume, map out your trick-or-treat route, and decorate the house — just don’t forget about your furry friends’ safety.