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Halloween pet safety: child and dog dressed in costumes

Scaredy cats and doggie costumes: Halloween pet safety tips

Halloween is a time for ghoulish family fun, outlandish costumes, and of course, trick-or-treating. But if you have pets, Halloween can also be a time of increased risk. Here are a few simple tips to help you and your pets have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Costumes
Halloween costumes range from the frightening to the fantastical and everyone likes to join in the fun. Many pet owners even dress their dogs and cats for the occasion. If you’re planning on dressing your pet, be sure to get a costume that fits properly, without being binding or constraining. For dogs, Halloween costumes come in sizes from the extra-small to the extra-large, so choose appropriately. Since animals are unaccustomed to “dressing up,” try the costume on your pet a few days in advance. If your pet seems agitated or stressed (panting, scratching, panicking), it’s probably best to forego the costume. 

Treats
Avoid giving your pets candy—especially any sweets containing chocolate or the sweetener xylitol. Chocolate can be especially harmful for dogs, and can cause gastrointestinal distress, hyperactivity, muscle spasms, and even seizures. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is even more toxic to dogs than chocolate and can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar. 

People
If you live in a neighborhood where trick-or-treating is popular, chances are you’ll be opening the door often throughout the evening. If your animals are likely to become anxious or aggressive around strangers, you may find it advantageous to sequester them in a part of the house away from the front door. Some animals can become frightened by the activity generated by an evening of strangers dropping by in costume. Separating an anxious or aggressive pet isn’t just being neighborly—it also reduces unneeded stress on your animal.

Identification
If you plan to take your pets trick-or-treating, be sure they’re wearing proper ID, in case you become separated from them. An implanted microchip or identification tag can make the challenge of reuniting pets and owners much easier. Also, if you plan to be out after dark, be sure that your animals are wearing reflective costumes, vests, or collars, to minimize the risk of being struck by cars.

Decorations
A hand-carved jack-o-lantern adds an extra degree of spookiness to any Halloween celebration. But keep your pets from nibbling, as pumpkin can lead to gastrointestinal stress in dogs. Also, if you’re using a candle to illuminate your décor, you can reduce the fire risk by keeping it in a place where it’s unlikely to be toppled by an excited pet (or child). 

A Note about Cats
The days surrounding Halloween are a time of pranks and mischief. Sometimes these pranks can stray into the area of cruelty and abuse. Each year, many cats (especially black cats) are the subject of Halloween pranks, some of which prove harmful or even fatal. Best bet: keep your cat indoors during the week of Halloween.

We hope these tips will help you and your pets have a safe and enjoyable holiday!


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.

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