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.
#1. Steer clear of chocolate
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. 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.
#2. Avoid sugary candy
Sugar is another ingredient in commercial chocolates that dogs should avoid entirely. Dogs 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.
#3. Look out for sugar-free alternatives too
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 canine toxin that causes the blood sugar to plummet and organ failure. Sharing your candy isn't worth the risk. Instead, bring some tasty treats, especially for Sparky.
#4. Don't leave glow sticks and jewelry out
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.
#5. Keep Jack away from Jack-o'-lanterns
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. Lit candles inside Jack-o'-lanterns are also risky for curious pooches. A swat from a wiggly tail can spell danger for long-haired pups.
#6. Be careful with noise-sensitive woofers
Loud music, spooky soundtracks, screams, and boisterous kids are just some of the sounds your pup will encounter on Fright Night. These noises are often overwhelming for a dog with limited socialization.
Humans and dogs experience sound differently. Not only are sounds louder for dogs, but they can pick up on frequencies that we can't. Consider a lowkey event rather than trick-or-treating or a full-blown Halloween party for dogs with noise sensitivities.
#7. Know that certain costumes can cause dogs to react
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.
#8. Use caution with epileptic dogs
Like humans, flashing lights can trigger seizures in dogs with a history of photosensitive epilepsy. Strobe lights, strands of lightbulbs with a flickering pattern, TVs, and projectors may cause neurons in your dog's brain to fire abnormally and trigger a seizure. While seizures are ordinarily mild, prolonged bouts can cause lifelong health issues.
#9. Choose your decor wisely
Decorations are part of what makes holidays magical, but some 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. You can still spruce up your place for the spooky season, but you'll have to be creative if your pup is a chewer.
#10. Pick costumes carefully
Few things are cuter than a dressed-up doggy, but not all costumes for dogs are entirely safe. Tight dog 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 see if it fits appropriately and doesn’t cause a reaction.
#11. Have current ID tags and a reflective harness
Take precautions to minimize the chance of your dog becoming lost. ID tags with your info and reflective or GPS dog gear will help you find your pup quickly if they get away. 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.
#12. Making Halloween as safe as "pawssible”
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 degrade and use caution when picking your household decor and party favors.
Anxious or reactive pups and those prone to running away will require extra supervision and precautions. Watch your pet's demeanor to make sure they're okay. Dogs respond to stressors in two ways: fight and flight, and neither response is a good one amongst kids, cars, and other animals. Ensure the contact info on your pet's tag is legible, and opt for a snug-fitting harness and leash when out and about.
Before you take your dog to a 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.
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!
Happy Spooking! 🐾