6 Halloween pet safety tips

Halloween is a fantastic time of year – but the costumes, candy, and parties we love can turn into horror movies for our furry friends.

But fear not! Our list of safety tips will keep you and your pet safe until All Saints Day. 

Dress up for success (or not at all). A pet costume can seem like a fantastic (and cute!) idea…to humans. Your pet might feel differently! Give costumes a test run before Halloween to see how your dog or cat reacts; if he's unhappy or afraid, consider a lower-key ghost-themed bandanna or collar instead, or skip it altogether.

Your pet may love dressing up, but make sure his outfit is safe and comfortable, and made from a non-flammable material. Costumes should allow him to see, hear, and breathe normally; avoid attire that covers his eyes and ears, and if his bark (or meow) sounds muffled, loosen or rethink the costume. Remove parts that he could chew or choke on (drawstrings, loose sequins, et cetera), and ensure that there's nothing hanging off the costume that could snag on stuff.

Go with the natural look. Make-up or face paint is a bad idea – it can irritate a pet's skin, and worse, it can get licked off and cause digestive distress. (Plus, it's more likely to get all over you and your furniture than to stay on your pet!) Even non-toxic make-up isn't worth the risk.

Stick to safe snacks. Most pet owners know that chocolate in any form – and particularly baker's or dark chocolate – is a big no-no for dogs. It's harmful to cats as well, and if your pet wolfs down a whole wrapped candy, it could cause a blockage. Keep all candy in a safe place, and let your pets celebrate with doggy snacks or cat treats instead.

Decorate with care. Keep edible décor like pumpkins and candy corn out of reach of curious paws and jaws. Inedible décor is still prime pouncing material for cats, though; hang the fake cobwebs and black-and-orange tinsel as high as you can manage.

Candles add spooky ambiance – but they can also get knocked over by enthusiastic tails (or set those tails ablaze). Switch to battery-operated versions instead; your local hardware store should have a selection of kitten-safe non-flame options.

Skip trick-or-treating. Your dog could get spooked by a costume (his or others'), new and unfamiliar people in the neighborhood, or going to strange houses. If you simply must show off her ladybug outfit, keep the outing short, and stick to the sidewalk. Better yet, take photos instead and let your pet stay home.

And bring outdoor pets inside for Halloween night. Extra traffic, candy dropped on the ground, trick-or-treaters teasing or chasing them – all these things can harm or freak out your pet (and a barking dog could scare people away from your front door). Invite them in for the evening.

Prepare for parties. Whether you're planning a Halloween party or just expecting lots of trick-or-treaters, a little pet-proofing prep can make the experience less stressful for the whole family:

  • Check the cages of smaller friends like gerbils and birds to make sure latches are secure; remove their habitats from common areas (i.e., your front hall).
  • Indoor-only pets like cats and small dogs should spend the evening behind closed doors – a back bedroom or storage area you make comfy with an old sweatshirt to nap on, and/or a new toy to play with. Identify and close off escape routes; post a sign on the door, and lock it if you can.
  • Larger, more social animals should be leashed. Some children have no experience with dogs, and can get scared even by a friendly canine overture. If your dog tends to jump or bark when she gets excited, consider crating her for the party, or installing a dog gate.
  • Let guests know they shouldn't feed your pets; a small sign on the snack table should do it.

Read about cat-proofing your Halloween party (and more) at Petcentric.com.