Halloween is definitely one of our most unique holidays: we celebrate the beginning of autumn by dressing up in costumes, decorating with jack-o-lanterns, and giving out candy to our neighbors. And when we’re asked why we do these silly things, we inevitably answer, “That’s just the way it is.”
As intuitive as our pets may be, if that’s the best answer we have for people, how could we begin to explain this bizarre day to our pets? With that in mind, it’s best for us to have a game plan in mind so we can keep our pets healthy, happy, and most importantly, safe, on what can be a very hectic, confusing, and over-stimulating day.
People Treats Can Be Pet Trouble
One of the most important things for us to remember on Halloween is that people treats can be dangerous, and often poisonous, to our pets.
The Pet Poison Hotline reports a 12% increase in call volume during the week of Halloween, most of them associated with pets consuming chocolate, raisins, and wrappers. These are all dangerous to our pets and should be treated as a poisoning if they’re accidentally ingested.
Chocolate is one of the most toxic treats for pets. Dogs and cats both struggle to metabolize it and when it’s ingested, it can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to elevated heart rates and even seizures. The culprit is a caffeine-like chemical called methylxanthines. This compound is more highly concentrated in dark chocolates, but is still present in all forms, so make sure all chocolate is kept out of reach.
Whether they’re in the form of healthy raisin treats or a peeled grape trick, even a small amount of Raisins & Grapes can cause kidney failure in your pets. These must be kept out of reach! If you suspect that your pet has ingested either of these (symptoms can include vomiting, abdominal pain, & lethargy), make sure you contact your veterinarian immediately.
Unfortunately, our pets don’t always remove wrappers from treats before they eat them, making even non-poisonous treats dangerous. Plastic and foil can cause serious bowel obstruction, which sometimes needs surgery to correct. Even if the candy is eaten, your pet may still be attracted to the discarded wrapper, so keep the trash bin closed and inaccessible.
Keep Calm & Celebrate On
One of the biggest issues for our pets on Halloween is the constant line of trick or treaters or party guests. This can be especially troublesome if your pet is protective or hates when things are out of place. Fortunately, some small steps can go a long way in keeping them calm.
Make sure you have plenty of stress & anxiety remedies available and administer them before the trick or treaters start. A multi-faceted approach always works best, including flower essences, pheromone soothers, and swaddling products, like a Thundershirt. If you wait until after your pet is nervous, these aren’t as effective, so introduce them to your pet gently throughout the evening; when the visitors start arriving, your pet will be calm enough to handle it.
Safe spaces are important for letting our pets feel protected, so allow them access to them on Halloween and make them extra safe. Nervousness can induce extreme panting, so have plenty of water available.
Finally, try to meet the trick or treaters on the porch. Preventing the doorbell from always ringing or stopping the constant knocking at the door can give you a huge advantage in limiting your pet’s anxiety. And with the calming aids, your pet might not even realize anything out of the ordinary is happening!
Keep the Costumes Comfy & Safe
Our pets are part of the family, and if they’re comfortable with it, there’s no reason they shouldn’t enjoy the fun part of Halloween… the costumes! There are some things to keep in mind:
If your pet doesn’t want to wear a costume, don’t force it. Just like people, some pets don’t always like dressing up. If your pet is one of them, just let them go as they are, or better yet, make their lack of costume part of their costume… World’s Best Pet comes to mind.
If your pet loves dressing up, make sure the costume fits properly. If there is any kind of rubbing or constriction, it can remove fur and irritate your pet’s skin. Also, keep it simple so your pet isn’t tempted to think the costume is a toy. We might see a fully functioning robot pet with all the buttons and switches, but your pet sees something that needs to be destroyed, and possibly lodged in their gastrointestinal system.
Decorate with Your Pets in Mind
Commonplace Halloween decorations can be trouble for our pets. Candles in jack-o-lanterns can be singed whiskers and tails for our curious companions. If you’re using open flames, try to put them at a level where your pets won’t be tempted to get at them.
Fake cobwebs and glow sticks that are bad for pets can also look like a tempting toy; cats especially love to chew on these. Unfortunately, these are bowel obstructions (and a surgery) waiting to happen. Keep pets away from the decorations as much as possible. If you do catch them playing with decorations, it’s best to grab the pet rather than the camera.
They Only Stay in at Night
With hectic neighborhoods on Halloween, your best bet for safe pets is to keep them inside. This will keep everyone calm and happy. As an extra precaution, make sure all of your companions are wearing their collars with appropriate contact information. Halloween can be a nervous night, and often our pet’s first instinct is to flee.
Don’t Get Spooked
Most importantly, don’t let all of these potential dangers frighten you from a fun night. The most important steps for us to take are to keep our pets calm, be mindful of their actions, and make sure they’re having as much fun as we are!