Halloween, one of my favorite celebratory occasions, is nearly upon us. Although it holds great opportunity for human festivities, our pets are often exposed to stressful and potentially dangerous situations.
To keep your canine and feline companions healthy and trauma free, I've compiled my top 5 Halloween pet safety tips.
1. Minimize Halloween Stress: There are many Halloween stressors. The doorbell rings, the door opens and closes, and trick-or-treaters loudly exclaim – these contribute to a state of heightened stimulation in our pets. Halloween excitement may be too much for your pet and lead to aggression, barking, escape attempts, hiding, inappropriate urination/defecation, salivating, or other unusual behaviors.
Trick: Either keep your pet safely confined from your Halloween festivities or arrange for an overnight play date or visit with your pet sitter.
2. Properly Identify Your Pet: Halloween brings a recurrent point of escape for your pets due to the frequency in which the door opens. The arrival of costumed revelers may also distract your full attention from your pet’s whereabouts. If your pet does escape, the return home will be faster if its collar dangles identification tags. Proper ID is especially vital for costume adorned pets or those participating in Halloween festivities outside of the safe confines of their homes.
Trick: Microchip implantation adds an extra layer of security should the collar or tag be removed. Keep your personal information up to date with the microchip company.
3. Deck the Haunted Halls with Care: Unfortunately, both the pumpkin and its flammable contents create dangers for your pet. After being carved, a pumpkin starts to decompose and can harbor a toxic cocktail of bacteria and mold. When ingested, pets may suffer mild to severe stomach upset or other clinical signs of illness (lethargy, organ system failure, seizures, death, etc.). Be sure to keep all Halloween decorations, cords, and strings out of your canine or feline companion’s reach.
Trick: For pumpkin illumination, choose non-flammable luminescent sources such as battery powered lights for your Halloween decorating scheme.
4. Closely Observe Your Costume Adorned Pet: Pet clothing primarily caters to people’s pleasure instead of that of a pet. While Halloween costumes are readily accepted by some pets, others cower or worse when fabric, plastic, or other materials are applied to their bodies. The desperate attempt to remove a costume could lead to a trauma or illness.
Constantly monitor your costumed pet for behaviors associated with stress (pacing, cowering, vocalizing, etc.), overheating (increased respiratory rate, open mouth breathing, etc.), or developing intolerance (attempts to remove the costume). Also keep an eye out to ensure that no portion of the costume is ingested.
Trick: Be sure to choose pet-appropriate options that are non-toxic, provide sufficient ventilation, and do not constrict body parts.
5. Ooh, Piece of Halloween Candy! Not for your Pets: Chocolate, fat, sugar, and other ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy can be harmful to your pet. Chocolate contains chemical compounds called methylzanthines, including caffeine and theobromine, which have many toxic effects in dogs. Additionally, elevated fat and sugar content of chocolate and candy can cause serious digestive tract problems in both dogs and cats.
Trick: Since countertop surfing & scavenging skills are in both the canine and feline repertoire, you should place all Halloween candy in airtight, seal-able, plastic containers inside a cabinet out of pets' reach.