How to Make Halloween Safer for Your Dog

The Executive Director of Found Animals Foundation shares her top tips for helping pups get through the Halloween season.


Halloween may be full of treats for humans, but the holiday does not hold the same appeal for our canine counterparts. In fact, Halloween can be a downright frightening time for pets.

Just last week, we held a photo shoot in our Los Angeles office and my Pit Bull, Rufus, was one of the doggie models. He loved wearing his costume and posing for the camera, but all of the pumpkin and spider props looked like toys to him.

If Rufus had a hard time telling the difference, your dogs might too. No matter how much you might try, dogs are going to get overly excited about everything in your house this Halloween season and all of the unfamiliar activity might leave them extra anxious. Here are some tips to make sure Halloween is fun – and safe – for your pet.

Be Smart When Choosing Costumes

1. Keep your pet stress-free by choosing a costume that fits properly and isn’t too much of a distraction. While dressing up your dog or cat can be fun, there are a few things that should be considered when picking out a costume for your pet: A costume that is too large or too small can be problematic; too large and your pet could be injured. Tripping or getting caught on furniture or other obstacles can be dangerous. Too small a costume and your pet risks choking and discomfort. Also be sure the costume is free of small or dangling parts that can be torn off and ingested.

2. Make sure your pet can see through the costume. While masks and hoods might be cute, if your pet cannot see you could run into larger issues. Even pets with the sweetest temperament could bite, scratch or cause injury because they cannot see properly.

3. As tempted as you might be, avoid dyes and face paints which may irritate your pet’s skin or be eaten. Even if a product states that it is nontoxic, it could still cause an upset tummy or reaction. It’s best to keep the face paint and dyes to the humans!

4. Never leave your pet unattended while dressed in a costume.

5. Remember, it is dark outside during trick-or-treating! If your pet will be traveling with you this Halloween, think about adding a reflective collar, tape or other gear as part of their costume so that they can easily be seen.

Candy Is for Kids. Period.

Keep all candy out of reach! Your dogs have an excellent sense of smell so keep those treats sealed up tight. Some candy can be especially dangerous to your pet, such as the following:

  • Sugar-free candy which contains Xylitol. Even in small doses this ingredient can cause rapid low blood sugar and liver damage or failure in dogs. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate and baking chocolate, is poisonous. It’s common for people to say a dog has to eat a lot of chocolate to cause problems to health. To put this in perspective, a 50 pound dog need only ingest 50 ounces of dark chocolate or just 5 ounces of baking chocolate to cause problems such as tremors, nervousness, vomiting, high heart rate or even death in some cases.
  • Raisins are often a healthy Halloween treat for kids but can be deadly to dogs. Dogs can experience kidney failure after ingesting just a small amount of raisins (including currants and grapes in many cases).
  • Make sure you discuss with children and visitors the dangers of sharing Halloween treats. Also make sure garbage cans are sealed and wrappers are disposed of properly. Dogs and cats can choke easily on cellophane and tin foil wrappers which many of our favorite Halloween treats are wrapped in.

Be Mindful of Trick-or-Treaters

Some pets are just more comfortable at home. Keep in mind though, the constant door bell ringing and unusual appearance of strangers in costume might be scary.

1. Place your pet in a quiet area away from all the commotion. Give them some comfort by surrounding them with their favorite toys or blankets. Some pets may be less distracted if you leave the TV on to muffle the unusual level of noise and activities that surround Halloween.

2. Be alert when opening your door, your pet may be tempted to escape. Consider putting up a pet gate in your doorway as a precaution.

3. One of the most important things you can do any time of the year is microchip your pet. Should your pet escape and become lost, your chances of being reunified are greatly increased. Also make sure your pet is wearing external ID that is up to date and easily readable. Found Animals provides a free microchip registry with found pet alerts. Visit this page for more information.

4. If possible, walk your dog before dark when all the trick or treating festivities begin. This will help you avoid massive crowds which can stress out your pet leading to injuries and avoid the accidental ingestion of discarded wrappers and dropped candy that may make your pet sick.

Keep Halloween Decor Out of the Way

1. Decorations such as jack-o-lanterns can be dangerous to pets with wagging tails or curious noses. Avoid house fires and injured pets by keeping candles out of reach or by using a low-heat, battery operated light instead.

2. Pumpkins, gourds and decorative corn can attract the attention of pets. Though in most cases these are non-toxic they may still cause an upset stomach and could create a mess. Consider keeping these items in an area away from pets.

3. Festive lights, ribbons and streamers should also be kept out of reach to avoid injury including electrocution or ingestion causing obstruction.

About the Author: Aimee Gilbreath is the executive director of the Found Animals Foundation.

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