Many pet owners love Halloween—and love sharing it with their four-legged family members. According to a nationwide survey, 75% of U.S. pet owners plan to dress up their pet this Halloween, and 25% plan to go trick-or-treating with their pet.

But, before you pet dons their disguise or steps out the front door, check out these Halloween safety precautions from Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital.

#1: Keep candy out of your pet’s reach

Pets and candy don’t mix. In fact, this combination can lead to numerous accidents, including:

  • Choking — Small hard candies, gum, wrappers, and lollipop sticks may lodge in your pet’s throat and cause them to choke, or become a gastrointestinal obstruction.
  • Toxicity — Chocolate, raisins, and xylitol (i.e., a natural sweetener found in sugar free candy and snack foods) are highly toxic. Pets who consume these ingredients require veterinary attention.
  • Gastrointestinal upset — Unusual and sugary treats can trigger gastrointestinal upset (e.g., vomiting and diarrhea).
  • Intestinal obstruction — Cats may be attracted to colorful candy wrappers, while dogs may ingest wrapped candy, creating an intestinal blockage. Small toy party favors and decorations also appeal to pets. Intestinal obstructions require surgical removal.
  • Resource guarding — Pets may bite or scratch if they feel threatened, so use caution when taking candy away from a pet.

Prevent candy-related accidents by storing all Halloween candy in closed containers kept out of your pet’s reach (e.g., a high shelf, mantle, or cabinet). Consider replacing highly toxic options, such as dark chocolates, sugar-free candies, and those containing raisins, with less dangerous alternatives.

If you know or suspect your pet has consumed something toxic, immediately contact Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and ask whether emergency veterinary care is necessary.

#2: Ensure your pet’s costume includes current identification

Halloween can be confusing and frightening for dogs and cats, and is the second-most common holiday for missing pets. Ensure your pet wears a well-fitted collar or harness that displays their current identification, so they can be returned to you. As an additional precaution, have your pet microchipped. Microchipping is a safe and permanent identification method that provides the ultimate peace of mind. The implantation process is simple, and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Once your pet is microchipped, ensure you register them with the manufacturer’s database. 

#3: Supervise your pet around doorways and outdoors

Frightened or curious pets startled by loud sounds, screams, or light flashes are likely to slip through open doors or gates and run away. Even if your pet enjoys greeting guests, keep them on a leash during trick-or-treating, or restrict their doorway access with pet gates or confinement in a crate or small room.

Exercise your pet before nightfall to avoid things that go bump in the night. Bring outdoor pets inside and keep your dog leashed if you’ll be venturing out in the dark.

#4: Give your pet a safe place to hide from Halloween horrors

While some pets seem to enjoy Halloween hijinks, others may feel they’re living a nightmare. If your pet is anxious, scared, or uncomfortable, set up a quiet space where they can safely hide. Ideally, this should be a small room or area away from loud or unfamiliar activity. Include a crate—if your pet is crate trained—as well as a cozy bed, and necessities such as a litter box, water, and a few favorite toys. 

Also, ensure you exercise your pet before confining them, and provide a long-lasting treat, such as a frozen Kong filled with pet-safe foods or a textured lick mat for cats and flat-faced dogs. 

#5: Have a dress rehearsal for your pet’s costume

Costumed pets are irresistibly cute, but they will look bad if their costume is poorly fitted, restricts their movement and breathing, or causes them to trip and fall. Ensure your pet’s costume is runway-ready with a dress rehearsal before the big night. Look for potential hazards, including:

  • Baggy or loose fabric
  • Tightness around the neck, chest, or legs
  • Drooping hats or hoods that may block vision
  • Small accessories (e.g., decorative buckles, buttons, or attachments) that could be chewed or swallowed.

Finally, if your pet appears stressed or uncomfortable, replace their costume with a festive collar, bandana, or bow tie.

#6: Move or replace Halloween decorations that may tempt pets

Your neighbors aren’t the only ones admiring your Halloween decorations. Sparkling lights, spooky spider webs, and eerie candles attract dogs and cats, too. Sadly, pets don’t understand how to look and not touch, which can lead to serious harm. Consider relocating or replacing popular decorations, including:

  • Traditional candles
  • String lights
  • Glass ornaments
  • Garland, string, and spider webs 
  • Essential oils and liquid potpourri that can cause painful burns or severe toxicity—ask your veterinarian for advice before using essential oils around pets

#7: Recognize your pet’s stress signs

Monitoring your pet’s behavior can prevent negative experiences. Observe your pet for stress-related behaviors, including:

  • Excessive panting
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flattened ears
  • Tight lips (i.e., commissures)
  • Raised hair along the neck and back
  • Low or stiff body posture

These signs mean your pet is fearful and anxious, and you should calmly remove them from the situation to alleviate their stress and prevent an undesirable outcome.

Ensure your pet has a happy—not horrifying—Halloween by considering their comfort and safety. To discuss additional anxiety-reducing strategies for pets or to schedule a microchip appointment, contact Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital.