Halloween is a fun holiday… for many of us. But it is not always fun or safe to involve your pets in all the festivities surrounding this day.
There are many pets that enjoy the excitement of people visiting their home in droves, and wearing a costume, being photographed in it, etc. BUT, the majority of pets, dread this holiday. Or, their veterinarians dread it, because people like me are consulted to deal with the fallout.
I am hoping to give you tips on things that can go wrong, and how to prevent them.
While our pets, and usually this applies to dogs, love to make us happy, man’s best friend may not actually enjoy being dressed up in a movement restricting costume. Cats as well, although they are better at expressing their discontent than dogs, who will go along with your photo shoots and instagram posts, to a fault.
Before the big day, think twice about a costume purchase. If you want to dress your pet for some quick photos, then retire the ensemble, that’s fine. If your pet hates it, skip it. If you do purchase an adorable costume, make sure it does not have removable parts that can be ingested, and pose as obstructions.
Let your pet smell and investigate the outfit days before he wears it. Assure it is comfortable and they can breathe well while wearing it. They may be afraid of it. This goes for your outfit as well. Masks in particular can frighten a pet and result in fear aggression, which may be directed at trick-or-treaters as well. Give them treats as you train them to associate the outfit as something positive.
If strangers and doorbells set off your pet….
this is not a holiday they will enjoy. Each year, my dog is sedated with a mild, over the counter, herbal remedy, with some CBD, on the big day. Zylkene and Bach’s Rescue Remedy are two of my favorites. If able, I sequester her to another level, or at least a different room in the home with a baby gate, to prevent her from charging the door and barking at those who arrive… endlessly in her eyes. Removing pets from the situation, with a TV or radio on is a great idea. Even better, if able, is to take them out of the house.
Also, you may turn off your doorbell altogether, or station someone on your front porch to greet costumed visitors, without a knock at the door. Plus, all that opening of the door, with perceived scary people, can set off a pet to escape into the dark night, where they can get lost, injured, and you will be dealing with the stress thereafter, for a while.
Cats are good at hiding stress, of say, repeated doorbell rings, and then it emerges in another form, as illness, a few days or weeks later. Feliway is a product that you can plug into a room, where your kitty is secluded. It releases a pheromone that helps relax cats. Soft music, treat filled toys are lovely distractions.
If your cat is an indoor/outdoor kitty, bring him inside that night. They may run away from all the excess activity, and become disoriented in the dark.
The risks to pets of candy ingestion are not limited to the day of distribution. Many of my patients find the bags of candy well before Halloween, or days to weeks after, and become ill. Wrappers can be consumed and cause obstructions as well as chocolate, or xylitol (artificial sweetener in some candy), both of which are toxic to dogs. Raisins are a common poisonous ingredient as well. Pets will seek out candy in pantries, under beds after the big day.
Keep the ASPCA 24 hour poison control hotline handy: 888-426-4435.
While eating small amounts of pumpkin can be good for pets, too much of a good thing can cause gastrointestinal problems.
The pumpkins themselves, and particularly jack-o-lanterns lit with candles, are a hazard. They can get burned, or tails can knock them off counters, etc, acting as a fire hazard. Consider battery operated pumpkin lights, or none at all. Battery ingestion can be dangerous as well. Keep them out of reach of pets.
And, rotten pumpkins should be discarded, as they harbor bad bacteria if eaten.
Other dangerous decorations
such as rubber eyeballs, can cause obstructions if eaten. Fake spiders can cause stress.
Fake cobwebs can choke or entangle pets or wildlife.
Potpourri is toxic to birds,
String lights can cause electrocution or injury if chewed.
If you have the unicorn pet that enjoys trick or treating with you…
Make sure you have taken her for a long walk earlier in the day. She will be calmer and deal with all the revelers better.
Beware of glow sticks, which pets can ingest if found on the ground. The chemicals in them are toxic.
On that note, consider that you are walking in the dark where very often candy has been dropped on the ground. You will be distracted, and even a flashlight to guide you will not be sufficient to stop a dog from swallowing a small candy bar quicker than you can say Goblin.
I recommend accustom your pet to a plastic cage muzzle or nylon one… weeks before the big day. Maybe incorporate it into a costume (think Hannibal Lecter)?
They can drink and breathe, but not open wide and chew. Properly sized muzzles based on your pet’s weight should fit comfortably, and they can get accustomed to them with a bit of training.
I hope that you, and your pets, have a happy, stress-free, vet visit-free Halloween this year, and for years to come.