Avoid candy dangers, decoration mishaps and the frightening experience of a lost pet with these tips for a safe and happy Halloween.

By Brendan Howard
October 01, 2020
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Halloween should be treat-filled, not tricky, when it comes to pet safety. These tips can help cats and dogs stay calm and happy during the holiday of potentially toxic treats, weird noises at the door, and trick-or-treating kids in masks.

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Many of the best Halloween goodies have chocolate, but cats and dogs (including any adorably chocolate Labs out there) shouldn't be allowed to eat any of it, says Ahna Brutlag, a veterinarian who works with the Pet Poison Helpline to answer questions about toxic substances. 

Unfortunately, with bags of chocolate treats in the kitchen and pantry, and bowls open for trick-or-treaters or parties, every Halloween, the team at Pet Poison Helpline winds up counting how many pounds of chocolate have been ingested by pets in their toxic counseling calls.

If you know or suspect that your dog has eaten chocolate, call Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian immediately.

Save yourself this headache by skipping chocolate this Halloween or keeping the pets far away from candy bags and bowls. If kids are returning to your house this year with bags of candy loot, counsel your young ones to keep their stashes away from pets Halloween night and after.

Bonus tip! Xylitol in sugar-free gum and candies is toxic for dogs, and raisins are also bad for cats and dogs. Also, if a dog wolfs down a bunch of individually wrapped candies, they can get stuck in the digestive system. Be safe: Keep all the candy out of curious pets' reach.

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If your pets don't freak out when you try to get a sweater on them, you might be tempted to put them in a cute Halloween costume. Have fun, says Brutlag. (Need ideas? We got you.)

"A lot of veterinary clinics will even launch their own pet costume contests," she says.

Watch out, though, for loose pieces that pets might chew on or eat. You don't want dogs choking on their Frankenstein's monster neck bolt or cats nibbling their Dracula collar. And avoid zippers and metal buttons, especially, as they may contain toxic amounts of zinc.

"If a button or zipper tag just passes through the pet, I don't expect it to be a problem" Brutlag says. "But if it stays in the digestive system, it can require surgery."

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And by "put out," we mean, "extinguish." Clumsy dogs and curious cats and kittens can get too close to lit candles or pumpkins and singe fur, or maybe even skin.

"Cats especially love to stick their noses in candles," Brutlag says. 

If you want flickering candles indoors, consider the electric variety, Brutlag advises. 

Bonus tip! Keep dried corn cobs out of your table decorations if your cat or dog loves chewing and swallowing corn.

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Some pets have a tendency to chew glow sticks or jewelry, so keep them out of reach. The chemicals inside these items can irritate pets' mouths, especially cats, and can cause excessive, foamy hypersalivation. 

"It's a very bitter, irritating sensation," Brutlag says. "It's easy to treat by washing the mouth or giving something tasty to get rid of the foam."

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While your shaggy Irish wolfhound or black cat might make the perfect werewolf or witch's pet Halloween night, perhaps a photo op is best before heading out the door. Taking them on your trick-or-treat adventure in your neighborhood could make them uneasy, and trying to walk a stressed out pet—or worse, chasing down a runaway—is not how you want to spend the holiday.

If your cat is inclined to make a run for it every time the front door opens or your dog barks at every visitor, think ahead this Halloween to manage the noise and activity of trick-or-treaters who ring the doorbell.

Consider keeping your cats and dogs away from the front door, secluded in an interior room with a toy or another family member for company. 

Brutlag spent the first two or three years with her anxious poodle giving the dog treats in the kitchen Halloween night while her husband managed trick-or-treaters. Now, she says her dog is pretty calm on Halloween, sometimes with the help of an anti-anxiety drug.

Also, make sure your cats and dogs have up-to-date tags on them just in case of a night-time escape.