Halloween can be fun for the whole family, including pets, but it’s important to keep in mind that certain activities and seasonal treats can pose a serious risk to our canine companions.
CertaPet surveyed 500 U.S. dog owners to learn more about their dog’s behavior during Halloween, especially as it pertains to certain seasonal activities that can often result in high stress or health dangers for dogs.
See the results below, and learn how to keep your dog safe this Halloween.
Chocolate can be very dangerous to dogs, and Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in some candies, can be especially deadly.
According to a recent online survey of 500 U.S. dog owners, more than a third of dog owners (35%) have caught their dog trying to eat chocolate around Halloween time.
The experts at CertaPet present the following tips to keep pets safe from Halloween candy:
- Elevated Storage: Store all Halloween candy in high cupboards or on high shelves that your dog cannot access, even when standing on their hind legs. Remember, some dogs can be quite adept at climbing, so ensure the storage spot is truly out of reach.
- Sealed Containers: If you have candy in bowls for trick-or-treaters, consider using containers with tight-fitting lids when not actively handing out treats. This can prevent your dog from sneaking a snack when you’re not looking.
- Educate Children: Make sure children understand the dangers of feeding candy to pets. They might be tempted to share their haul with their furry friend, so it’s essential they know which foods are harmful.
- Immediate Clean-Up: After trick-or-treating, ensure that all candy bags are picked up and stored away immediately. Children might accidentally leave bags on the floor or within a dog’s reach, so a quick sweep of the area is a good idea.
- Trash Precautions: When disposing of candy wrappers, ensure that the trash can has a secure lid. Dogs might be tempted by the scent and rummage through the garbage, ingesting wrappers in the process.
- Monitor Behavior: Even with precautions, there’s always a chance your dog might ingest something they shouldn’t. Keep an eye on them for any signs of distress, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, or seizures. If you suspect they’ve consumed candy, especially chocolate or anything containing xylitol, contact your vet immediately.
- Safe Alternatives: If you want your dog to join in the festivities, consider buying or making dog-safe treats. This way, they can have a special snack while everyone else enjoys their candy.
If you find your dog eating chocolate or suspect that they may have eaten chocolate, call your veterinarian or local veterinary ER clinic immediately. Chocolate toxicity can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, tremors, and even internal bleeding.
Halloween can also be a stressful time for dogs because of the number of strangers coming to the door throughout the evening.
More than a quarter of dog owners (28%) say their dog barks and/or howls excessively when trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell, and more than 1 in 6 dog owners (17%) say their dog exhibits other signs of anxiety (such as withdrawal, fearful behavior, running away, etc.) in response to the same.
To combat this anxiety, 43% of dog owners use calming treats to keep their dog relaxed, while 44% rely on a chew toy or bone to keep their dog occupied. Nearly 1 in 5 dog owners (19%) also play calming music to help their dog manage anxiety.
CertaPet offers the following tips to help dog owners keep their canine companion comfortable and safe this Halloween:
- Safe Space: Create a quiet, comfortable space for your dog away from the front door. This can be a room with their bed, toys, and some soft music or white noise. This will help shield them from the constant doorbell ringing and excited shouts of trick-or-treaters.
- Distraction: Provide your dog with a new toy or a treat-dispensing puzzle to keep them occupied. This will not only distract them from the noise but also give them a positive association with the evening’s activities.
- Identification: Ensure your dog has a collar with an ID tag and, if possible, a microchip. With the frequent opening and closing of doors, there’s a risk your pet might dart out. Proper identification can help them get back to you faster if they get lost.
- Desensitization: If your dog is particularly anxious, consider desensitizing them to the sound of the doorbell or knocking in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Play the sounds at a low volume and reward your dog for staying calm, gradually increasing the volume as they get more comfortable.
Finally, not all dogs enjoy dressing up for festivities. In fact, 1 in 5 dog owners surveyed say they don’t plan on dressing their dog up for Halloween. When asked the reason why, 48% stated their dog doesn’t like wearing costumes.
While dressing up pets can be a delightful part of Halloween, their comfort and safety should always come first. CertaPet offers the below guide on ensuring a dog’s costume is safe, along with alternatives for dogs who aren’t fans of dressing up:
Checking the Safety of a Dog’s Costume:
- Fit: Ensure the costume fits well. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. A tight costume can restrict movement and cause discomfort, while a loose one can get caught on objects or cause the dog to trip.
- Breathing: Check that the costume doesn’t press against the dog’s throat or restrict their airways. They should be able to breathe easily and bark without any hindrance.
- Vision and Hearing: Costumes shouldn’t cover the dog’s eyes or ears unless they’re made of a very thin, breathable material. Obstructing these senses can be disorienting and stressful for them.
- Easy On and Off: The costume should be easy to put on and take off. If you’re struggling to dress your dog, it’s a sign that the costume might not be a good fit or that your dog is uncomfortable.
- Check for Small Parts: Ensure there are no small, easily detachable parts that your dog could chew off and swallow, such as buttons or tassels.
- Material: The fabric should be non-irritating to your dog’s skin. Avoid costumes with rough edges or internal tags that might cause itching or discomfort. Additionally, consider whether or not the costume’s material may cause your dog to feel overheated, especially when it comes to dog breeds with already thick coats.
Alternatives to Full Costumes:
- Bandanas: A festive bandana can be a simple and comfortable way to dress up your dog without the constraints of a full costume.
- Collar Charms: Attach a Halloween-themed charm or pendant to your dog’s collar for a subtle touch of festivity.
- Decorative Collars: Swap out their regular collar for one with a Halloween design.
- Hats or Headbands: Some dogs might tolerate a light hat or headband. However, always ensure it’s not too tight and doesn’t obstruct their vision or hearing.
- Themed Toys: If your dog isn’t keen on wearing anything, you can still get them in the Halloween spirit with themed toys like pumpkin squeakers or ghost plushies.
Remember, the most important thing is your dog’s comfort and well-being. If they show any signs of distress or discomfort, it’s best to skip the costume altogether and opt for a more relaxed way to celebrate.
*The survey included in this report was administered online on October 10, 2023 through the survey platform Pollfish and included no less than 500 respondents.