Halloween Hazards

By Judy Layne

Halloween is a festive time for children and their families, but it can be a scary and stressful time for pets.  The things that make Halloween fun for people – trick-or-treaters at the door, scary costumes, noises – can overwhelm many pets.  Some Halloween elements can also be dangerous and even fatal for our four-legged companions. Follow these tips to protect your pets on Halloween.

Never let your pets eat trick-or-treat candies or chocolates. Xylitol, a sweetener found in many candies and chocolate of any kind can be extremely toxic, even deadly, to pets.  Suckers, their sticks, and candy wrappers can be choking hazards that may require surgery to remove. Explain to everyone in the house, especially children, how dangerous Halloween treats are to pets.  Keep all treats out of your pet’s reach and dispose of all wrappers. When walking your dog during or following Halloween, ensure they don’t pick up discarded treats or wrappers.  If you believe your pet has eaten something toxic, contact a vet immediately.

Keep hazardous decorations out of reach.  Never keep a lit pumpkin or candles around pets.  If pets get too close, they can burn themselves or topple them and start a fire.  Curious kittens are particularly at risk.  Halloween plants like corn and pumpkins can cause stomach upset or intestinal blockage if pets swallow large pieces.  Fake blood and glow sticks may be toxic.

Be cautious using pet costumes.  Some animals like dressing up, but others dread it.  Don’t outfit your pet in a Halloween costume unless you know they don’t object. If your pet appears uncomfortable or distraught, take off the costume.  Signs of distress include hunching over, folded down ears or a tucked tail.  If you do decide to dress your pet up, avoid masks and choose a costume that doesn’t restrict her normal movements, breathing, hearing or vision. Remove any small or chewable parts that could come off and choke your pet.  Or go with a safe choice of costume, such as a loosely tied Halloween bandana.

Don’t leave pets in the yard on Halloween.  Cats are always safest inside the home, but on Halloween it’s critical to keep all pets inside.  Pets can become frightened and anxious by Halloween sights and sounds. Walk your dog before trick-or-treating starts. If you go trick-or-treating, leave your dog at home.

Keep your pets away from the front door.  Costumed strangers yelling loudly, a constantly ringing doorbell and flurry of activity can scare pets and they may dart out into the night. Ensure your pet is wearing proper ID – a microchip and/or collar with tags – in case they do escape and become lost. Dogs are territorial and even the most social pets can become agitated, panic and behave out of character (ie. growl, lunge, scratch, bite or run away). It’s safest to put your pets in a room away from the front door before trick-or-treaters arrive.  Play soft music or leave the tv on and provide water, a litter box for cats, a favorite toy or blanket and some special treats to make your pet comfortable and relaxed.

With a little planning, you can ensure that your pets have a safe and happy Halloween.

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.