Follow These Halloween Safety Tips for Pets
Halloween is a zany, fun holiday for children and adults with lots of treats, costumes, and neighborhood fun. But while people look forward to the hoopla, it’s a sudden shift from the norm for pets. From the frequent doorbell ring, to candy right within reach, and the front door swinging open, the entire celebration can be worrisome or downright dangerous for your cat or dog. But it doesn’t need to be. Owners are left wondering is candy bad for dogs and cats, how can my pet take part in the holiday, and are there ways to soothe Halloween anxiety. Trusted Purina experts and veterinarians Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. Ragen McGowan help address each of these questions so that pets and people alike can enjoy the Halloween holiday.
1. Indoors is best.
Though people are out and about in large numbers on Halloween, pets should stay in. Dogs of any temperament can be upset by strangers in costume. And cats, even those familiar with roaming the neighborhood, can easily avoid being frightened, taunted, and possibly harmed. But sometimes a stealthy pet will get out. In that case, Dr. McGowan advises planning ahead. “Make sure that your pets are wearing proper identification so that if something happens and he or she is found later, you can be easily contacted,” she states.
2. Sweets aren’t for your sweetie.
Lists like this one on what foods are bad for dogs and cats are numerous, but sometimes candy is left off, which is a big oversight. Candy is enticing for people and for pets, but unlike us candy even in small amounts can cause pets to vomit, have diarrhea, or even be poisoned. Pets will sniff out hiding spots, so the best plan is to keep all candy out of reach and sealed. Even small amounts of dark chocolate and the artificial sweetener Xylitol can be fatal, depending on your pet’s size. As a tradeoff, Dr. Becker states, “we veterinarians are okay when pet owners let well-trained behaved dogs take part in this holiday and will allow pets to eat tasty Halloween treats for dogs or for cats that you can buy in the store or online.”
3. Practice makes perfect.
Halloween only comes around once a year, so your pets have very few opportunities to acclimate to the festivities. Strangers at the door – particularly strangers in costumes – can be unsettling. There are ways to help prepare your dog in advance. McGowan recommends, “Weeks ahead of Halloween you can practice with your dog to create a positive association with the doorbell. You might try ringing the doorbell before entering your own house and then rewarding your dog for not barking when you enter. You could also invite friends to come to the house and give them treats ahead of time to reward your dog for not barking when they ring the doorbell.”
4. Dress is black tie (and costume) optional.
Costumes are cute whether they are on a child or a pet. But not all pets enjoy being dressed up. It’s easy to perceive if your cat or dog adores, tolerates, or is distressed by costumes. It’s best to treat your pet according to his or her temperament. Also give consideration to the costume’s construction. “Pets tend to not like costumes that fit with elastic on the top of the head or around the neck,” Dr. Becker advises. Outfits that are easily put on and taken off and that do not constrict your pet’s head and neck are often the best. There are other important costume considerations too including materials that are flammable or cause overheating. To learn more about how to evaluate costume safety, reference this article, or take Dr. McGowan’s advice. She states, “Halloween themed collars or leashes could be a good way to include your pet in the festivities without attempting a costume.”
5. Shop for soothing solutions.
Some pets need more than a little assistance from their owner to get them through Halloween. For those who are anxious and frightened by the sights, smells, and sounds of the holiday, there are several products available that can give some relief. If your pet benefits from soothing during storms or fireworks you may already own a solution—a Thundershirt. The Thundershirt is similar to swaddling a baby in a blanket. It applies constant pressure and compression in order to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress for dogs and cats. Dr. Becker also encourages pet owners to “talk with your veterinarian about some incredible new products such as the prescription product Sileo (for noise aversion) that can really help keep pets calm during hectic activities like Halloween.” Sileo can alleviate environmental stressors and increase pets’ ability to tolerate new, frequent, and/or loud sounds.