10 Halloween safety tips for pet owners

There's nothing cuter than dressing your pet in a costume for Halloween. But did you know costumes can also create choking hazards? Check out these safety tips to keep your pet safe on Halloween.

By Lisa Evans

10 Halloween safety tips for pet owners
©iStockphoto.com/Studio-Annika
From tricks to treats, Halloween can present many dangers to our furry pals. Ghoulish costumes, strange noises and bewitching candy can make October 31 a frightening night for pets. Here’s how to keep Fido and Fluffy safe on the scariest night of the year.

1. Keep pets away from the candy bowl
Not only is chocolate toxic to cats and dogs, but, according to Barbara Steinhoff, executive director of the Toronto Humane Society, pets have a tendency to ingest not only the candy, but also the entire wrapper.

Hard candies and lollipop sticks are also choking hazards as they can easily get lodged in pets’ throats. If you worry your furry pal has taken a treat from your Halloween haul, monitor him for diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate and tremors, and call your veterinarian immediately if you witness any of these signs.

2. Stock pet-friendly treats
Include your dog in the trick-or-treating fun by giving him a special Halloween sweet made especially for him, like Blue Buffalo’s Boo Bars in Pumpkin and Cinnamon flavour (available at PetSmart). Squeaky pumpkin-shaped toys are also a great option to keep Fido entertained while you sort out candy with the kids.

3. Use caution when dressing up

Dressing up your cat or dog for Halloween can be loads of fun, but Peter Due, PetSmart store manager, says while many pet owners think about matching a costume to their pet’s personality, safety should be the first priority when choosing a spooky disguise. Neck, leg and tail openings should be large enough to allow movement, and Velcro and elastics shouldn’t be so tight that they rub or pinch your pet’s skin. Allow a two-finger width between the costume and your pet’s neck to ensure unrestricted airflow and make sure there’s nothing obstructing his or her vision.

Remember to always keep a close eye on costumed pets. If they seem uneasy about their new disguise and are trying to wiggle free, remove the costume immediately.

4. Remove choking hazards from costumes

Inspect your pet’s costume for dangling ties that she might trip over and remove sequins or bobbles that can be chewed on.

“Costumes aren’t built as strong as a normal dog toy,” says Due, so making sure there’s nothing on the costume your pet can pull off, eat or swallow is crucial to having a safe Halloween.

5. Remember IDs
Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification in case they escape into the night. While veterinarians and humane societies all have microchip scanners, your neighbours do not. Ensuring your pet has a collar with his name and your contact information on it increases the chances he will be returned to you in the event he becomes lost.

6. Know when to take furry trick-or-treaters home
Taking your dog trick-or-treating can be loads of fun, but Steinhoff warns that some pets may find the excitement of the evening too much to handle.

“It can be scary for them. You have all these kids that look completely different in the craziest of costumes,” she says. Even the gentlest of dogs can become aggressive when frightened. Keep a close eye on your pet and take her home at the first sign of agitation.

7. Walk safely
Keep Fido on a short leash while trick-or-treating and make him visible by adding reflective tape to his costume or a collar with LED lights. Small pets are especially at risk of being trampled by excited trick-or-treaters.

8. Give pets a safe room
Even the most social pets can become frightened by the barrage of costumed children showing up at the door and agitated by the constant ringing of the doorbell. Steinhoff recommends providing a quiet room for your pet away from the front door. Not only will it prevent him from escaping into the night, but it will also help ease the Halloween jitters. Be sure to include all of your pet’s essentials in the room: food, water, toys and a litter box for cats.

9. Bring outdoor cats inside
Your cat may love to prowl outdoors, but Steinhoff says Halloween night contains too many dangers to allow cats to wander. The noise and excitement on the street can be overwhelming and cause them to run off and get lost. While your cat may not be happy about being trapped indoors, his well-being is more important than missing a midnight jaunt.

10. Make decorations pet-friendly

Replace your jack-o’-lantern candle with a battery-operated flame or flashlight. “Our pets are incredibly curious and can pop their heads or paws inside to see what’s in there and can burn themselves,” says Steinhoff.

Candles are also a fire hazard as they can easily be knocked over by excited tails. Tape down any electrical cords that pets can chew and avoid using decorations with dangling edible parts.

To keep your kids safe this Halloween, check out our safety tips. Plus our food editor shares how she stops herself from over-indulging in candy.


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