Knock-knock! Trick-or-treat from your friends at The Gentle Vet!

Welcome to the spookiest, scariest, and silliest night of the year. This All Hallows’ Eve, you should take a few extra precautions to ensure your pet’s safety. Check out The Gentle Vet team’s top five spookiest Halloween hazards for pets, and learn how to protect your four-legged little pumpkin.

#1: Candy ingestion and pets

Sweet candy treats are ubiquitous on Halloween. These brightly wrapped delights are dished out from doorways, tossed to parade goers, and carried in every bag and bucket. Unfortunately, when curious pets get their paws on these sugary treasures, the result is less than sweet. The most common Halloween pet emergencies are candy-related, including:

  • Toxicity — Chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, and xylitol (i.e., a sugar-free sweetener) are toxic to pets. Toxicity signs range from digestive upset to heart issues, pancreatitis, neurologic problems, and organ failure.  
  • Choking — If your greedy pet quickly snarfs down a Halloween treat, they can easily choke. Lollipop sticks and plastic accessories can lodge in your pet’s digestive tract, requiring that your furry pal be anesthetized to have the item removed.
  • Wrapper ingestion — Indiscriminate dogs and curious cats may swallow colorful candy wrappers or packaging—including foil, twist ties, and decorative string. These items can harm your pet’s gastrointestinal lining or cause a life-threatening blockage.

To keep your pet safe, store all candy in sealed containers—out of your pet’s reach—and ensure all family members and guests immediately put wrappers and packaging in the trash. If your pet consumes a toxic candy ingredient, contact The Gentle Vet or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for after-hours guidance. 

#2: Decorations and pets

Halloween decor can be downright scary, but although fun and festive, many popular items can result in serious injuries or household accidents. Restrict your pet’s access to the bedecked areas, or send these terrifyingly hazardous home accents to the decoration graveyard:

  • Candles — Flickering flames attract curious cats and dogs, but their siren song can end with singed whiskers, burned paw pads, or house fires.
  • Gourds and ornamental corn — Pets often mistake pint-sized pumpkins, squashes, and ornamental corn for toys. If your pet swallows any of these decorative vegetables, they can lodge in your furry pal’s intestines.  
  • Faux spiderwebs — Your playful cat can become entangled in an artificial web, and if they eat some of the stringy material, they can choke or experience a digestive obstruction. In addition, when displayed outdoors, these faux spiderwebs are hazardous to curious wildlife. 
  • String lights — If your pet chews the bulbs or cords of string lights, they can experience lacerations and electrical shock.
  • Essential oils and liquid potpourri — Some essential oils can cause pets serious respiratory, liver, and kidney damage. To determine which household fragrance items (e.g., fluids, heating elements) can pose a risk to your pet’s health, talk with your veterinarian before diffusing or spraying essential oils, or placing a liquid-heating potpourri in your home.

#3: Escaping pets

Your pet cannot tell the difference between a friend in an imposing Halloween costume and a real threat. Trick-or-treaters’ foreboding behavior and sudden squeals of delight can cause pets to panic and bolt out of the house, which is why Halloween is the second most common holiday for missing pets. Although your pet may be well-trained or socialized, panic can provoke their natural flight response, causing them to escape through an open door, window, or gate. If your pet gets outside on Halloween night, the darkness, costumed revelers, and terrifying decorations can cause them additional fear and disorientation.

Protect your pet during fright night by keeping them away from open doors, costumed guests, and loud events. Although your dog is well-trained and social, keep them leashed if they join you trick-or-treating and even if they stay home to help greet the trick-or-treaters. On Halloween and every day, ensure your pet wears current identification. For additional peace of mind, have The Gentle Vet microchip your furry pal. 

#4: Fearful pets

Fear can consume your pet on an unpredictable night such as Halloween. Pets’ fear, anxiety, and stress can cause a cauldron of catastrophes, including:

  • Bites and scratches — Defensive pets may react to perceived threats by lunging, biting, or scratching. If your pet shows stress signs (e.g., panting, shaking, flattened ears, raised hackles, lip licking, growling, hissing), promptly remove them from the situation, to prevent the night from ending with a person or another pet becoming physically injured.
  • Abnormal behavior — Scared pets may cower, hide, behave aggressively, or display overly attached and attention-seeking behavior. Anxiety can also cause your pet to exhibit destructive behavior such as digging, scratching, or chewing. 
  • Gastrointestinal issues — High stress levels can trigger your pet’s digestive upset (i.e., colitis). 

If your pet tends to experience excessive nervousness or stress in new or unfamiliar situations, confine them to a quiet area (e.g., a covered crate, a quiet room) during Halloween festivities. Provide your pet with positive distractions (e.g., a food-stuffed Kong, quiet music, white noise) and soothing items (e.g., a cozy bed, their favorite toys). Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about additional anxiety-reducing methods (e.g., medication, supplements).

#5: Costume calamities and pets

Costumed pets are definitely cute, but whether your pooch or kitty will be strutting down the street or posing for an Instagram photo shoot, know that costumes are not as harmless as you think.

Ill-fitting costumes can alter your pet’s natural movement, restrict their breathing, or prevent them from communicating with other pets through body language. Costumes can also obstruct your pet’s vision, affect body temperature regulation, and cause significant emotional distress.

To avoid costume-related emergencies, ensure your pet’s outfit fits appropriately—especially around the face, legs, neck, and chest. In addition, observe your costumed pet for nervous or anxious behavior such as panting, whale eye (i.e., dilated pupil and visible sclera—white of the eye), restlessness, or shaking. If your pet’s costume poses them any risk for injury or harm, opt for a festive collar, neck ruff, or bow tie. 

Although Halloween may not be your pet’s favorite holiday, the night can still be enjoyable for all. Take the appropriate precautions to ensure your dog or cat has a comfortable—and candy-free—Halloween. For additional questions about pet anxiety, microchipping, or toxic foods, contact The Gentle Vet.