By Emily Gantt
Published: 10/19/2020, edited: 11/16/2023
Halloween is an exciting time for all species, but it can be a frightening time for pet parents. Accidents happen. Hidden dangers lurk in unexpected places, from costumes to candy and even pumpkins.
Prevent a Fright Night scare with some precautions and a bit of vigilance when taking your pup out on the town. Here’s everything you need to know about keeping pets safe this Halloween.
Some pet parents think sweet treats are okay in moderation, but you never know how a dog's body will respond to chocolate. Weight, age, health conditions, and the type of chocolate all factor into a dog's ability to metabolize it. A large dog may seem fine after eating milk chocolate but may collapse from cocoa powder, which is richer in theobromine.
Theobromine is a poisonous and sometimes lethal compound in chocolate that can induce seizures, blood pressure changes, overheating, and even death in dogs and cats. It can take hours for the symptoms of chocolate poisoning to show up, and by that time, theobromine is in their bloodstream. The cost to treat a severe case of chocolate toxicity is upwards of $3,000; it's simply not worth it.
Sugar is another ingredient in commercial chocolates that dogs should avoid entirely. Dogs and cats who eat sugar may develop gastrointestinal upset, cavities, obesity, and even diabetes. Pet parents must be extra careful when scanning nutrition labels since sugar goes by many — often misleading — names. Fructose, corn syrup, glucose, sucralose, maltodextrin, and dextrose are just a few nicknames for sugar.
The sugar-free flavor additive xylitol is even more harmful than chocolate and sugar combined. Xylitol's sweet flavor, fast-acting effects, and widespread use pose a considerable risk to the canine community. Xylitol is a primary ingredient in candy but can also be found on the nutrition labels of sugar-free peanut butter, gum, and cakes.
Although the FDA deems it safe for humans, xylitol is a deadly toxin that can cause an animal's blood sugar to plummet and their organs to fail. Sharing your candy isn't worth the risk. Instead, bring some tasty treats made specifically for dogs or cats.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, glow sticks are another common item dogs ingest on Halloween, second only to candy and raisins. Glow sticks aren't typically toxic, but they can cause excess salivation and a burning sensation. Plastic jewelry, particularly the glow-in-the-dark kind, can also appeal to hungry doggos.
Blaring music, spooky recordings, screams, and boisterous kids are just some of the sounds your pets may encounter on All Hallows' Eve. Loud noises can frighten any dog or cat, but are especially overwhelming for pets with limited socialization.
Humans, dogs, and cats all experience sound differently. Not only are sounds louder for our pets, but they can pick up on frequencies that we can't. Consider a lowkey event rather than trick-or-treating or a full-blown party for pets with noise sensitivity.
Pumpkin may be one of your dog's favorite table foods, but decomposing porch pumpkin should not be on the menu. Rotten pumpkins are laden with bacteria that can cause nausea and diarrhea in dogs and cats alike. Lit candles inside Jack-o'-lanterns are also risky for curious pets. A swat from a wiggly tail can spell danger for long-haired pets.
Scary costumes, especially masks, can cause fear and aggression in
mild-mannered pups. Before going out, try on a mask in front of your dog
to make sure they won't cause your dog to become reactive.
If you know masks frighten your dog, it's probably best to celebrate at
home. You don’t want to scare Fido or have them snap out of fear.
Check out the Best Halloween Costumes for Dogs in 2023!
part of what makes holidays magical, but a lot of common decor is
hazardous to pets. When decking your halls, avoid faux spiderwebs that
can wrap around a pup's neck. Small decorations, particularly ones that
look like toys, can cause gastric and airway obstructions. Balloons and corncobs
might look fun to play with but are also harmful if swallowed.
fret — you can still spruce up your place for the spooky season! You'll
just have to get use some forethought if your pets are notorious for chewing.
Like humans, flashing lights can trigger seizures in dogs and cats with a history of photosensitive epilepsy. Strobe lights, strands of lightbulbs with a flickering pattern, TVs, and projectors may cause neurons in your pet's brain to fire abnormally and trigger a seizure. While seizures are ordinarily mild, prolonged episodes can cause lifelong health issues.
Before you take your dog to a pet-friendly Halloween party, ask the host what to expect. Will there be strobe lights, loud music, and a lot of kids or animals? Knowing what's in store can spare you a lot of stress if you have a reactive or epileptic woofer. If you think the sights and sounds will trigger your pup, it's best to leave them at home.
Few things are cuter than a dressed-up doggy, but not all costumes for dogs are entirely safe. Tight clothing can cause irritation, hair loss, and interfere with walking. Costumes that are too loose may cause your dog to become tangled.
Avoid buying costumes with embellishments, rhinestones, or beads that your pet could swallow. Use caution with synthetic materials like polyester or nylon if your dog has allergies — particularly in fine or very short-haired dogs. Let Fido try on their new duds before wearing them out, and check to ensure their costume fits appropriately and doesn’t cause a reaction.
Anxious or reactive
pets and those prone to running away will require extra supervision and
precautions on Halloween. Watch your pet's demeanor to make sure they're okay. Dogs
respond to stressors in two ways: fight or flight, and neither response
is safe when they're surrounded by kids, cars, and other animals.
Ensure the contact info on your pet's tag is current and legible, and opt for a snug-fitting harness and leash when out and about. A well-fitting harness will help keep your dog secure if they tend to slip out of their collar. Opt for a harness with a handle and a short leash, especially if your dog is excitable or spooks easily.
By all means, let Fido indulge in the spooky season, but do it safely. Bring along treats just for them and store human treats up high. Throw out pumpkins when they start to decompose, and use caution when picking decor and party favors.
Have a safe and spooky time with your Halloweenie. But remember, it's up to us parents to protect our pets. Looking for safe fright night activities for pooches? Peep these games to play with dogs on Halloween!
Need answers fast about pet-related questions this spooky season? Use Wag! Vet Chat to connect with live veterinary professionals!
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