The First Thing You Should Do If Your Pet Accidentally Gets Into the Halloween Candy
It’s hard to overstate the fun that Halloween inspires, but the spooky time of year can be really stressful for pets. It’s pretty understandable when you think about it: The aspects of Halloween that are often the most enjoyable for humans—including spooky decorations, elaborate costumes, and sweet treats—are exactly the parts of the holiday that are the scariest or most dangerous for dogs, cats, and other four-legged family members.
While Halloween festivities will undoubtedly look different this year due to social distancing, it’s important to keep pets as safe as possible. From decorations and candy to how to engage with trick-or-treaters, advanced planning will help your keep your pet safe and relaxed all Halloween season.
How dangerous is Halloween candy for pets?
Candy is a big part of Halloween, but as tasty as these treats are for humans, they pose safety risks for pets. Most people know that chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats, but it’s not the only danger hiding in your candy. Xylitol is a sweetener found in many types of gums and candy, and unfortunately this common additive is highly toxic to dogs. And large amounts of sugar can lead to stomach upsets.
For safety, it’s important to keep your pets away from all human Halloween treats. If you think that your pet has gotten into the candy bowl, contact your veterinarian or local veterinary hospital immediately for phone triage and to determine if you should take your pet for an in-person checkup.
How to pick pet-safe Halloween decorations
Be thoughtful about where you place Halloween decorations, and avoid leaving your pets unsupervised around them. If your holiday to-do list includes carving pumpkins, be sure to either use LED lights shaped like candles; no one wants to knock over a jack-o-lantern with a lit flame inside, least of all your pets. And while fake spider webs are also a popular Halloween decoration, they can also pose serious safety risks to pets, who may try to eat the fake webs. Not only is this a choking hazard, but the synthetic materials can also lead to more serious complications such as intestinal blockages (which could require surgical intervention).
In general it’s best to always supervise your pets around any Halloween decorations and decorate in areas the pets can’t reach. If you have curious pets, try to find ways to keep decorations off the floor and low bookshelves, as well as window sills. Hanging decorations are often indistinguishable from cat toys, so keep them to a height that your cat isn’t able to reach.
What to do if your pet is afraid of Halloween decorations
From noisy animatronic installations to inflatable decorations both in the neighborhood and at home, pets have to contend with a lot in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween. You might particularly notice changes in your dog’s demeanor while on daily walks: Some dogs are completely unfazed by the sudden appearance of ghoulish holiday decor while others become easily spooked.
As you and your neighbors begin to decorate, be extra attentive to your pets. If they seem curious or concerned about any Halloween decor, don’t force them to approach or interact with the new intruder. Instead, first start at whatever distance from the decoration your pet is comfortable with, and have small pieces of treats on hand to reward your pet and ensure them that the new object is safe. Praise and treat your pet just for looking at the spooky decoration, and allow them to move towards the decoration at their own pace over several short training sessions. If at any point your pet becomes worried or afraid, take a step back to praise and treat them at the distance they are comfortable at.
Above all else, never drag your pet towards decorations or force them to interact with a Halloween decoration; instead, work at your pet’s comfort and pace so they can make the association that spooky Halloween decorations mean good things.
What time should you walk your dog on Halloween?
Halloween night will likely be quieter than normal this year due to the effort by many people to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But it’s still a good idea to avoid walking your dog after dark on Halloween. Trick-or-treaters might still be out hunting for candy, and their costumes might spook your dog, who will likely not be used to the costumes and masks. And while pranks and practical jokes can be funny for people, they are likely to be stressful or even frightening for dogs.
Instead, use Oct. 31 to spend quality time at home together. As an extra precaution, be sure that your pets are all wearing collars with tags that feature updated contact information. If your pet is microchipped and you have recently moved or changed phone numbers, it’s also a good idea to confirm that you have updated the contact information with the microchip company.
It’s always a good idea to keep pets away from the front door—that goes double on Halloween
If you have a cat that goes outside, or if you generally let your dog have alone time in your fenced yard, you’ll want to avoid giving your pet unsupervised time outside in the days leading up to Halloween and on Halloween itself. This will prevent them from getting scared by holiday festivities, and potentially from running off and getting lost.
Even if your pets normally love having guests come to your home, the costumes and excitement of the night can be overwhelming for many animals, which can lead to them bolting out the door and getting lost. Even the most friendly pets can snap or bite trick-or-treaters, out of fear and stress.
Although it’s unlikely you’ll have trick-or-treaters ringing your door this year, it’s a good idea to make sure that all your pets are all secured in areas away from the front door on Halloween night. A great option for keeping your dog occupied on Halloween is to give them a new chew or bone, or a hard rubber toy: Try stuffing a KONG with peanut butter, kibble and/or treats, and freezing the toy for a few hours to up its difficulty for even the most persistent pups. Chewing both relieves stress and will keep your dog distracted from any doorbell ringing that might be taking place. Treat-dispensing toys are a great way to keep your cat occupied and distracted during spooky festivities, too.
And that schoolyard rumor about black cats?
While black cats are often a major centerpiece in many Halloween decorations, black cat owners are often wary to let their pets out on or around Mischief Night (otherwise known as Oct. 30). You may have heard that they are especially vulnerable to being tortured around Halloween because of the way they are often associated with witchcraft or depicted as evil or bad luck.
According to Best Friends Animal Society, the rumors that black cats in shelters are at a greater risk to be adopted by bad-faith actors is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. As for black cats who already have a forever home, Snopes classifies the idea that they are at specific risk as nothing more than a “legend.” That said, it’s still a good idea to keep them inside as much as possible: The greatest risk to your black cat on Halloween is that they might be spooked by costumes or decorations, like any other feline friend.