How to take care of your pet over Halloween

Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at the video vet service FirstVet gives the inside track on how to celebrate Halloween with pets, while avoiding any potential hazards

It is now well and truly autumn, meaning that it is time to carve the jack o’ lanterns and prepare the costumes for Halloween! This year, many will be celebrating at home, giving pets an opportunity to join in with the fun; however, if you have a cat or dog that will be making an appearance on the night, there are some Halloween hazards to be aware of. The best way to avoid any pet-related drama is to be prepared in advance, so here are some of the main dangers that pet owners should watch out for in order to ensure a happy Halloween for all involved. 


Chocolate and sweets 

It is well known that chocolate is not a safe snack for dogs, but it can also be dangerous for cats, although they are usually less inclined to seek out your chocolate stash. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to confectionery you’ll find that the higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous it is for your furry friend.  

Sweets are also dangerous for dogs, not only because of their high sugar content, but because many of them contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to canines. Although xylitol is not toxic to cats, the high sugar content of sweets means that they are still extremely unhealthy for felines, if consumed. 

Try to make sure that your sweet treats are hidden away by keeping them in cupboards or on high shelves that are out of reach, so that they cannot be found by curious noses. If your pet does manage to eat something from the trick or treat bag, get to a vet as soon as possible. If possible, keep a wrapper to show to the vet, so they can be as informed as possible when making a treatment plan.  

If your pet is feeling left out, you can also buy animal friendly treats, such as catnip or dog chocolate, but be careful to avoid any mix ups! 


Festive foods  

Pumpkin can make a great Halloween-themed treat for dogs and cats, as long as it is prepared properly and served in moderation. Any pumpkin that you give to your pet should be cooked through and have no extra spices, onions or garlic. When dishing this out, try to limit servings to around a tablespoon of cooked pumpkin per day, perhaps as a topping for their meals, as too much pumpkin may cause an upset stomach. Raw pumpkin can also cause digestive problems for dogs, as can any spiced foods for dogs or cats. These should be avoided to ensure you steer clear of any nasty surprises this Halloween.  


Spookifying the home  

Halloween decorations can be exciting for inquisitive pets, as well as their owners. It’s best to be careful when decorating your home or garden if your pets will be around. Overexcited animals may try to eat any low hanging ornaments, which could become lodged in their intestines or stomach. In order to keep animals safe from this risk, they should be kept away from Halloween decorations. All decorations should be placed out of reach - especially those that could be easily swallowed or cause your pet to get stuck in them.  

If some of your Halloween celebrations are taking place outside, make sure that your dog or cat is clearly visible by using fluorescent reflectors. These can come in the form of a vest, collar, harness or blanket. This is a good way of making sure that your pet doesn’t get lost during all of the festivities. 


Fancy dress 

Although dressing up for Halloween can be part of the fun, remember that animals can’t understand that you are in costume, so may be frightened by masks or Halloween make up. Loud noises can also be unsettling for dogs and cats alike. If you are planning any spooky pranks or exploding fireworks, make sure that your pet stays at home with someone that they know and trust.  

If you are getting four-legged members of the family involved in the fancy dress fun, be aware of how they react to the clothes. Some pets may be uncomfortable in fancy dress, so if they look sheepish or keep trying to remove their costume, it is best to leave them out of the fancy dress theme. For those that are comfortable with wearing fancy dress, remember to use flameproof and non-toxic clothing, and to stick to products that your pet is happy wearing.  

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