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Ask Nancy: Halloween Safety Tips For Pets

October 25, 2010

We find Halloween fun and exciting but our pets may find it confusing and scary. Fear, anxiety, frequently opened doors and new unexpected household dangers can all be dangerous for our pets at Halloween. Below are some tips to keep your pet safe and happy.

Candy, especially chocolate, should be kept well out of reach from your pets. Not only is chocolate toxic to pets but wrappers, made of tin foil, Mylar and other plastic, can also get stuck in your pet’s throat or digestive tract causing choking or upset. There are plenty of safe, healthy treats you can give your pet on Halloween. Try to have some on hand so your pet can share in the fun without getting ill!

Choose costumes for pets very carefully if you dress them up. It’s best not to have your pet wear a costume unless you know they will accept it. If you plan to dress up your pet, practice ahead of time and use plenty of praise and treats while getting your pet used to the costume.  Be sure costumes are safe and will not choke, tangle, overheat or frighten your pet. Make sure the costume doesn’t block your pet’s view or hearing and that the nose and whiskers are not covered, plus be sure they can move freely.

Make sure your own costume doesn’t scare your pet. Give them time to see it and get used to you in your new ‘outfit’! We know that people are inside the costumes but a pet who isn’t expecting the new ‘look’ of the humans may get quite frightened by the people they meet who are dressed up in a way they’ve not seen before.

Be careful of holiday decorations. Jack-o-lanterns if they contain a real candle can be a hazard. Your pet might knock them over and get burned or start a fire. You might consider using a long lasting battery operated tea light or a light stick instead of a candle. Your pet might get tangled up in decorative lights or streamers and panic or choke. Be sure decorations are out of reach of paws and mouths!

Keep your pets inside or under your complete control or supervision. Pets can become easily frightened, especially with big groups of people in odd costumes and loud and unexpected noises. Pets can also easily become victims of bad ‘tricks’ played by trick-or-treaters if left outside and unattended.

When you open the door for trick-or-treaters, be very careful your dog, cat or other pet does not rush outside. For dogs, it may help to keep them in a separate room and provide a chew toy or long lasting treats, to help reduce stress and keep them entertained. Or you might want to make sure your entry is safely blocked with a baby gate. Nervous pets may do best safely confined away from the ‘scary’ door where they don’t have to deal with all the ‘intruders’.

With cats and other pets a closed door in another area of the house might be best. Be sure the cats have access to food, water and litter box as usual. Playing calm music or the television, in the room where the pets are confined, can help block some of the stressful sounds of trick-or-treating.

If you have to take your dog with you outside, make sure you use a short leash for the most control, and that your pet is highly visible at all times. Also make sure your pet doesn’t stop to eat anything off of the ground. Check your yard before letting the dog out even if you have a safely fenced yard. Candy or other things sometimes get tossed into yards and can cause trouble if your pet gets into them.

Make sure pets are wearing current identification. A pet that gets spooked and escapes will have a better chance at coming home safely with good identification on.


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