Treats, not tricks: Halloween safety tips for pets

According to the 2016 Halloween Consumer Spending Survey, Americans will spend a record-high $8.4 billion on Halloween this year. And it’s not just humans that will be taking part—over 16% of Americans plan to dress up their pet, proving that holidays are no longer just for people. But, while Halloween is a fun-filled night for children and adults, the scary costumes, decorations, and candy can make it a night filled with more tricks than treats for pets.

During the week of Halloween, calls to the Pet Poison Helpline increase by 12 percent, making it the call center’s busiest time of year. “Most often, these calls involve pets accidentally ingesting Halloween candy or décor,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, associate director at Pet Poison Helpline. “Chocolate is one of the most problematic candies, as dogs and cats cannot metabolize it as well as people. Thus, it places them at risk for poisoning.”

By being aware of potential hazards, pet owners can make sure Halloween stays fun for the whole family and doesn’t turn into a real-life nightmare. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe during the spookiest night of the year.

  • Leave your pet at home and indoors. While it’s tempting to take your dog out trick-or-treating, even the calmest, friendliest dogs can get spooked in a large crowd. Scary costumes, loud noises, and flashing lights can be very stressful to dogs, causing them to run away or even lash out in fear. And while a black cat might seem like the perfect accessory, pets are not props. Cats, especially, don’t do well in loud, large crowds, and black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. The safest place for your pet is indoors at home.

  • Keep your pet in a safe and comfortable place. Even when pets are kept inside, they can still be at risk. The sound of the doorbell, shrieks from children, and frequent opening and closing of the door can cause anxiety in pets, and their instinct might be to flee. To help pets stay calm on Halloween, keep dogs and cats in a room away from all the excitement at the front door so they can’t slip out unnoticed.

  • ID your pet. Just in case your pet does get lost on Halloween night, make sure their ID tags are up to date and securely fastened to their collar ahead of time. Your pet’s ID tag should include name, address, and telephone number. Remember, if your pet gets lost, this is his or her ticket home! And even with proper tags, make sure your pet is microchipped and that all your contact information is up to date with the microchip registry.

  • Keep candy and other treats out of reach. Many Halloween treats are harmful to pets. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats, and the darker the chocolate, the more deadly it will be. Large ingestions of sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis in pets, and symptoms may not show up for two to four days. In addition to candy, even healthier options for people, such as raisins (and grapes), can cause kidney failure in dogs (and potentially cats). Think your pet may have gotten their paws on something poisonous? Make sure you know the symptoms and contact your veterinarian right away.

  • Beware of dangerous decorations. Jack O’Lanterns are a fun Halloween tradition, but can be an accident waiting to happen. To prevent burns or fires, opt for a flameless candle instead of a burning one. Pumpkins themselves are relatively non-toxic, but can cause an upset stomach for pets that munch on them. Hanging lights, cobwebs, and other Halloween decorations might looks like toys to your pet, and they can be harmful if chewed or eaten. Find a safe place for them where they are out of reach of your furry friend.

  • Be careful with costumes. There’s nothing cuter than dressing your pet up in a fun costume, right? However, make sure your pet always feels comfortable and safe, and supervise them at all times. Make sure costumes are not too tight, and don’t have any loose or dangling attachments your pet could choke on. A simple solution? Opt for a Halloween-themed bandana or collar instead. Learn more about costume safety for pets.

Thank you to our friends at the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association for these great tips. Join the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association on Facebook and receive tips on pet health, behavior, upcoming events, breaking news, and much more!

Additional Resources:

Pet Poison Helpline:

AVMA video on Halloween tips for pet owners:

ASPCA Halloween Safety Tips: