Although you may be tempted to include your pet in your Halloween festivities, Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital recommends that you keep the holiday low-key for your dog or cat. In between the tricks and treats, Halloween poses truly scary hazards for animals. Avoid the real horror of a missing or sick pet by seeing All Hallows’ Eve through your pet’s eyes, and taking a few extra precautions. 

DON’T assume your pet will find Halloween fun or charming

Pets cannot rationalize costumes. While we understand that the zombie or superhero is simply our friend in disguise, dogs and cats see a terrifying stranger. Unfortunately, pets often react poorly when they are fearful, and resort to fleeing, freezing, or fighting instincts. 

  • Flight — Pets escape the scary scene by running away, and may become disoriented by the darkness, neighborhood trick-or-treaters, and scary Halloween decorations. Many pets go missing or get hit by cars.
  • Freeze — Pets may become statue-like or move in slow motion. Pets in this state are not cooperativethey are extremely stressed.
  • Fight — Pets may react by growling, hissing, scratching, or biting. Take extra precaution with pets around children during Halloween.

DO set up a safe space for your pet during Halloween festivities

Before your doorbell starts ringing on Halloween, confine your pet to a quiet room or crate, away from the front door. Set up the space in advance, stocked with your pet’s creature comforts, such as a cozy bed, some favorite toys, and a television or radio to provide background noise. Offer your pet a food-dispensing toy or long-lasting chew toy to help them pass the time, and alleviate stress. Eating, chewing, and licking naturally soothe your dog or cat, and provide a welcome distraction during busy times. To help your pet settle in, give them plenty of exercise and quality time in the late afternoon. 

DON’T let your pet greet trick-or-treaters

For your pet’s safety, Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital does not recommend letting them greet or visit costumed house guests or trick-or-treaters. No matter how well-trained or socialized, your pet can be frightened or startled by unusual decorations, noises, objects, costumes, or masks, and may react with uncharacteristic behavior. With doors opening and closing frequently, pets have frequent opportunities to slip out of the house unnoticed, and their absence may not be immediately noted.

If you choose to let your friendly dog say hello, keep them leashed at all times, and observe their body language for fear or stress signs, such as:

  • Panting, or a tightly closed mouth
  • Avoiding physical contact
  • Cowering
  • Refusing treats, or taking treats roughly
  • Stiff posture, or tucked tail and rounded back
  • Raised hair over the neck or shoulders
  • Whale eye (i.e., the white of the eye is visible as a crescent moon shape)

Take your pet to a quiet space away from visitors if you notice any of these signs.

DO keep current identification on your pet at all times

No matter where your pet is spending the spookiest night of the year, ensure their vaccinations at Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital are current, and their identification tags and microchip registration are up to date. Check their tags for legibility and security, as the inscription can become worn and connections can loosen. If your pet isn’t microchipped, contact us to schedule an appointment. Microchipping is a safe, economical, and permanent way to ensure you and your pet can always be reunited. 

DON’T share Halloween treats with your pet

Candy is synonymous with Halloween, and can be found throughout most homes in bowls, buckets, bags, and bedrooms. These ubiquitous treats tempt humans and pets alike, and while we bemoan the cavities and calories, pets can suffer far worse consequences, including:

  • Choking — Small candies and wrappers may be consumed in a hurry, and become lodged in the trachea.
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction — Cellophane and foil wrapping can be mistaken for toys, and form an obstruction that requires surgical removal.
  • Toxicity — Many candy ingredients can seriously harm your pet’s heart, kidneys, liver, or neurologic system, including:
    • Chocolate
    • Xylitol
    • Raisins or grapes
    • Macadamia nuts

Call Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital if you know or suspect that your pet has ingested Halloween candy, decorations, or wrappers. 

DON’T force your pet to wear a costume

Animals depend on their movement to respond to threats and escape danger, and any restriction or impairment can leave them vulnerable to attack, injury, or death. Pets in a Halloween costume, especially a poorly fitting one, can feel trapped and incapacitated, leading to significant anxiety.

Pets in inappropriately sized costumes can stumble and fall, or become blinded by excess fabric. Tight costumes may prevent proper joint movement, restrict breathing, or strangle a pet. Dangling accessories (e.g., belts, beads, buttons, or ribbons) can be chewed and swallowed, or cause pets to become hung up on fencing or furniture.

Take a thoughtful look at Halloween from your pet’s perspective, to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, free from fear and distress. If your pet suffers from anxiety around strangers, large events, or sudden noises, contact Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital for advice, and to find out if anti-anxiety medication would be an appropriate choice this Halloween.