Halloween is considered the spookiest day of the year, but nothing is scarier for pet owners than an emergency veterinary trip. The frightful festivities can leave our pets feeling spooked and scared, and pet owners must beware of hidden Halloween hazards. Our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital answers common Halloween pet safety questions to ensure you and your pet have a happy Howl-o-ween. 

Question: What are the most toxic Halloween sweets for pets?

Answer: Halloween is one of the busiest times for emergency veterinary hospitals and pet poison control centers. All the delicious—but potentially dangerous—candy that sits outside for the trick-or-treaters, or is brought into your home, can quickly lead to an emergency if a clever pet sneaks a taste. Many Halloween treats are toxic for pets, including the following:

  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains chemicals called methylxanthines that are dangerous to pets. The darker, more bitter, the chocolate, the higher the chemical concentration, and the more toxic for pets. Signs your pet has ingested chocolate include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst, hyperactivity, and seizures. 
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free candies and gum that can cause low blood sugar, seizures, and liver failure in pets who eat foods containing the sugar substitute. Signs include vomiting, weakness, incoordination, and weakness. 
  • Raisins — Raisins—and grapes—are extremely toxic for pets and can lead to kidney failure.

And, pet owners have more to worry about than candy—candy wrappers and sticks can cause an intestinal blockage that will require immediate medical attention. Keep your pet safe by keeping your candy bowl well out of reach, and ensuring your children don’t leave their candy or wrappers lying around. 

Q: Should I bring my pet trick or treating?

A: This depends on your pet’s personality. Some pets do well in a busy crowd, while others prefer to stay at home, away from the people and noise. Halloween is no ordinary outing, and the strange costumes, loud sounds, and abundant activity can be too much for the most social of pets, so carefully consider your pet’s temperament before taking them with you. If you feel confident that your pet can handle the crowds, use these tips to ensure trick or treating with your pet goes off without a hitch:

  • Practice obedience training — Ensure your dog’s obedience skills are up to par before the big night—they must know the commands to “Come,” “Stay,” “Sit,” and “Heel.”
  • Purchase a reflective collar or harness — Reflective gear can keep you and your pet safe by ensuring drivers can see you.
  • Ensure your pet has identification — Ensure your pet’s collar fits securely and  identification tags are current. Microchipping greatly improves the likelihood that your pet who goes missing will be returned. Ensure your pet’s microchip is effective by keeping your contact information registered with the data company up-to-date. 
  • Practice good “petiquette” — Keep your pet leashed at all times and clean up after them to respect all trick-or-treaters.
  • Monitor your pet closely — If your pet shows any anxiety, fear, or stress, you must head home. Some tell-“tail” signs that your pet is uncomfortable include: 
    • Panting
    • Shaking
    • Excessive vocalizing
    • Cowering or turning away
    • Excessive yawning
    • Shallow or labored breathing
    • Tail tucked between their legs
    • Lowered ears
    • Refusing to move

  • Bring treats for your pet — Your pet may not be able to ring a doorbell, but they still deserve a treat. Stash your pet’s favorite treats in your pocket to reward their good behavior. 

Q: How can I keep my pet from darting out the door?

A: Constant streams of costumed strangers ringing the doorbell and yelling “Trick-or-treat” can be frightening for pets, and fearful pets often try to escape. Keep your pet from pulling a disappearing act by blocking their front-door access with a gate, or putting them in another room, away from the hustle and bustle, especially if they are extremely anxious. Choose a low-traffic area and distract them with white noise and a long-lasting chew, puzzle toy, or food-stuffed Kong.

Q: Should my pet wear a costume?

A: Many pet owners love to create fun costumes for their pet at Halloween. While nothing is cuter than a Dachshund in a hot dog costume, not all pets are comfortable playing dress up. If your pet will tolerate a costume, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Check for choking hazards — Small costume adornments, such as buttons and ribbons, can be chewed and swallowed, and cause choking or a gastrointestinal obstruction.
  • Allow for movement — Your pet should be able to easily walk around in their costume, with no obstacles to their their breathing, vision, or mobility.
  • Supervise your pet — Always monitor your pet while they’re in costume, and remove their costume if they show distress signs. 

Planning Halloween with your pet in mind can make the festivities more enjoyable and safe, but accidents can still happen. If you have a Halloween pet emergency, contact our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team, so we can turn scary into happy with our quality pet care.