Lots of people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be “spooked” by all of the noises and costumes. Halloween is a holiday with many dangers for our dogs and cats. You can have fun with Halloween and keep your pet safe.
Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be very fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind. Your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes. Your pet’s costume should be inedible. If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his “birthday suit”.
Costumes on people can be equally scary to pets. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person. Since we are in Salem Massachusetts and we are ground zero for the Halloween celebration it may be a good idea to desensitize your dog to Halloween masks and costumes because there will be people in costumes around for the entire month of October.
First of all your dog should be behavior trained. If your dog knows the basic commands it is easier to desensitize your dog. Try walking around town with your dog during the day in October. When you see someone a distance away in a costume coming toward your dog place her in a sit stay and praise her for being calm. As the costumed person approaches, if your dog acts out, barks or lunges don’t punish or speak to your dog. Just walk in a different direction and ask your dog to heel. Praise her for heeling. Place your dog into sit-stay or down-stay and praise for the good behavior. After a couple minutes have passed later repeat the exercise with another costumed person. Each time you do it the person should be able to approach closer to your dog. Eventually, people in costumes will be able to approach your dog and pat her. You can then progress to evening “spooky
walks”. Pretty soon your dog will be used to all kinds of people in costumes.
Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and ensuring that it does not accost any of the neighborhood ghosts. Place your dog in a room where she is not able to rush to the door every time the doorbell rings. Allow your dog to spend Halloween in her own special room indoors with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins. Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint. If you can’t find a safe place for your dog then consider staying on your front step to hand out candy. Your dog may be perfectly friendly but a child can be scared by the size of your dog or knocked over.
If you have an exotic pet such as a bird iguana or ferret please confine them to their s cages. The open door may be too much of a temptation. Your feathered friend could be tempted by so many open door opportunities and fly away. Ferrets can squeeze through very small openings un-noticed. Iguanas can run very quickly when they are motivated. If any exotic pet gets out they are not easy to find. Microchipping pets make finding them much more likely.
The two biggest concerns for pets during the holiday are injuries and poisonings. The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog. Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful; these pets could run away and become injured in a variety of ways. This is another reason to find a safe place for your dog.
Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe as well. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction. Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire.
Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy. Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting. Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, causing painful obstructions. Candy that is sweetened with Xylitol® can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well. Many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year. It might be wise to keep all cats indoors during this holiday. If you can’t keep your cat indoors, considering a boarding facility or your family veterinarian. It may help to keep your feline friend safe!