It’s Halloween! Hurray! Personally I love Halloween, I love dressing up in ridiculous outfits, eating more candy than I would ever allow myself to eat the rest of the year, seeing all the little kids hopped up on sugar running around door to door in great costumes. I still love going to halloween parties and decorating my house to look super spooky. I love going to haunted houses and closing my eyes for the entire time because I’m just too scared to look. I love watching scary movies through the holes in my hands that are covering my face and I love making witchy cocktails.However, being in the veterinary field, I’ve noticed that Halloween isn’t the greatest time for pets, especially those with anxiety. A lot of people don’t realize that they’re stressing their animals out by putting them in costume. Don’t get me wrong, some animals absolutely love it! But the other day I was at a friend’s place, and her dog was wearing a ‘Hot Dog’ costume. While everyone else, myself included, loved how punny it was and how adorable her dog looked, I couldn’t help but notice how her dog kept stress yawning, pawing at its muzzle and hiding all evening, until the costume was removed. In general, her cocker spaniel is a rather anxious dog to begin with, so being dressed in a costume that he’s not used to and submitted to a lot of people wanting to take pictures with him wasn’t the best of times for little Freddy. (On the other end of the spectrum, her other dog, Zola, who is featured here, loved being a busy bee and was the star of the party!)
1. Dressing your dog in costume
Who doesn’t love a good dog in a costume? Costumes for your animals have been all the rage for the past few years, and dressing up my cats has certainly crossed my mind. For those of you who saw my post about my dog, Jet, my family dresses him up as a clown every year, big bow tie included. My wonderful childhood cat, Snoopy, let me dress her up as a ‘bad cat’ every year, as I put devil horns on her head. Of course, not all pets are as easy going as that. Some pets are used to being dressed up, especially those that are cold in the winters and require coats, or those that have been exposed to costumes and pet clothing since a young age. However, some other nervous nellies don’t enjoy wearing costumes, and wearing one can actually stress them out a lot! Make sure that if you are going to dress your animal up, that you ensure that your dog is comfortable, and isn’t frantically trying to rip it off. Stress yawning, hiding, pawing nervously at the costume or it’s face, or aggressive behavior can all be signs that your animal is uncomfortable, and doesn’t want to be wearing the costume. Please respect that some animals just aren’t born trick or treaters!
2. Making sure the costume still has a collar/id tags
If you are one of the lucky ones that can dress up your pet, or even better can dress up your animal AND dress them up in a costume that matches yours (like a red riding hood/grandma wolf combo), make sure that you still have your animal's collar on, or attach their ID tags somewhere on the costume! Halloween trick or treating can be a scary experience even for the most relaxed of animals, so in case they happen get loose, you want to ensure that when they are found, it’s well known who they belong to and who can be called to come pick them up.
3. halloween can be spooky for pets, too
And speaking of costumes! Remember that Halloween can be scary for humans and animals alike! Should you take your dog with you trick or treating (or your cat if you’re feeling adventurous), something that makes you jump with fright (like someone jumping out of a bush or a scary noise that you weren’t expecting), can also frighten your dog! It’s always a good idea to keep a leash on your dog at all times when you’re out, and even better if you have a light up leash as it will be dark. This is also where keeping your ID tags on your dog is important, in case they do get spooked and run off on you.
4. Leaving the door open when trick or treaters come by
If you have animals in the house that tend to be Houdini-like escape artists, make sure that you either put them in a crate (if they are crate trained), or keep them in an enclosed area that they can’t escape out of, like a bedroom or the basement, so they can’t go rushing out the door when the trick or treaters come by. It can happen very quickly that a nosy cat hears the bell and sneaks out while you’re passing out your candy.
5. Leaving halloween candy and chocolate around
And while we’re talking about candy, make sure you don’t leave your candy lying around! Just as with all the other ‘chocolatey’ holidays like Easter and Valentine’s Day, make sure that all candy is up high or in animal proof containers so that your furry friends can’t help themselves to a snack. I’ve worked my share of Halloween overnights at an emergency clinic, and the amount of people we get coming in with their dogs (and even a few cats!) that eat various halloween candy, of course including wrappers, is unbelievable. If you want to be nice and have dog friendly snacks that you can hand out for trick or treating puppers, there are some great recipes that you can find online that are dog safe.
6. beware the decorations
Decorations are great at Halloween. Fake spiderwebs and dry ice cauldrons, lit up pumpkins and various little knick knacks around the house contribute to a very spooky atmosphere, which is half the fun of Halloween. Do know, however, that pets can very easily think that a little rubber mouse is a toy just for them, and can swallow bits and pieces, just like they can stick their nose in pumpkins lit with tea lights and try to paw at dry ice contraptions. It can be dangerous for pets to be around decorations unsupervised, so make sure that you keep your animals on leash when you take them outside. Keep decorations away from where your pets can reach them or supervise your pets while they’re around the halloween fun!
7. light up pumpkins
I know I mentioned lit up pumpkins in the previous tip, but I’ve also seen a lot of dogs and cats with burnt noses because they wanted to check out the pumpkins on the front porch. Personally, I love carving pumpkins, almost as much as I love pumpkin spice everything (and I’m not ashamed to admit it!), but I use an electric light in my pumpkins instead of a tealight. I find not only do they last longer, and last better through various weather, but they’re pet friendly and my cats
won’t stick their noses in there and get burnt. Plus, as a bonus, I live in Canada so fake tea lights will last through the snow that seems inevitable around Halloween every year!
The spooky end
Those are my tips, and I hope they help keep you and your furry friends safe this time of year. Maybe you even learned something new and can help save someone from a burnt nose, a spooked pet or a night in the emergency room!
Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear them! Please leave them in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I always love to learn something new and love to hear what you have to say about what I've written, even if you disagree!