Halloween: a holiday where the whole family can share in some spooky fun—but for dogs, it can be a time of increased risk. Each autumn veterinarians in the US treat thousands of dogs who’ve experienced a health crisis related to the holiday festivities—including poisoning, choking, and blunt force trauma (usually as a result of being struck by a vehicle).
Fortunately, there are ways you can help your dog stay safe and healthy during Halloween.
Dogs and Candy Cautions
Many of the yummy sweet treats we love are bad for our canine companions. Chocolate, for example, contains the chemicals caffeine and theobromine. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to metabolize and eliminate these chemicals effectively, so they can easily build to toxic levels n the blood. Even in small amounts, chocolate may cause tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, and even heart arrhythmias in dogs. In large amounts, it can result in seizures and even death. Susceptibility depends to a large extent on both the amount of chocolate consumed and the size and weight of the animal, with smaller dogs being the most vulnerable.
Editor’s Note: The Pet Poison Helpline is (855) 764-7661. (A fee applies to each incident.)
Another sweetener to keep away from pets is xylitol, a sugar substitute found in sugar-free gums and candies. Consumption of xylitol by dogs can boost insulin production and cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in seizures, liver damage, and sometimes death. And then there’s all the non-food trash that accompanies candy, such as wrappers and lollipop sticks. These can pose hazards both for choking and for gastrointestinal problems. The best bet is to keep all holiday sweets away from your dog and to stock up on some healthy dog treats, so your pooch can join in the fun, without the risk.
Costume Tips for Dogs
Dressing up in ghoulish garb is a staple of almost every Halloween celebration. But if you’re planning to dress your dog, there are a few basic rules you should follow to help keep your pet safe.
Pet costumes come in many sizes—from mini to extra large—so be sure the costume you select fits your dog properly. Costumes should allow freedom of movement and should never restrict your animal’s ability to breathe or swallow. The costume should also allow your pet to urinate and defecate comfortably and without fouling the garment. And never restrict your dog’s ability to see or hear.
Dressing up should be fun but for some dogs it can be very stressful. If you are unsure how your pet will react t a costume, you can try a doggy sweater or child’s t-shirt as a test run. If your pet shows clear signs of stress, take the garment off.
If you plan to take your pet trick-or-treating after dark, be sure your animal stays on-leash and that your pet’s costume features reflective material visible to drivers. If you’re making your pet’s costume yourself, be sure to use non-toxic and flame-retardant materials. Avoid potential choking hazards like Styrofoam, sharp objects, or glitter when creating your pet’s costume.
Note: If you need some creative inspiration, you can find some great ideas for do-it-yourself dog costumes online.
Pet-Centered Halloween Events
Halloween isn’t just for people. Each year, communities around the nation sponsor pet parades and other events to let our companion animals join in the fun. Some of these events can get pretty loud and hectic—so, before you sign up, be sure your dog is well socialized, good with kids and strangers, and not easily alarmed by loud noises. Finally, be sure your pet is wearing proper identification tags or is outfitted with a microchip. That way, if your dog does somehow get loose, a good Samaritan can easily help reunite you with your animal.
Quick Tips and Tricks for Dogs on Halloween
Don’t give dogs candy—especially candy containing chocolate or xylitol.
Costumes should be non-restrictive, flame retardant, and visible to motorists—avoid choking hazards or features that restrict movement, hearing, or vision.
Be sure your pet has an ID tag or microchipped, and is up-to-date on vaccines.
If you’re planning to attend a pet-centered event, sure your dog is well socialized and not anxious, aggressive, or easily over-stimulated.
Editor’s Note: Looking for a simple Halloween treat for your dog? In this episode of Scarf'd, we’ll help you make Spooky Cinnamon Dog Donuts.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.