Halloween Safety for Your Dog

Along with the cooler weather and beautiful trees full of brightly colored leaves, fall brings Halloween, and along with it, many dangerous situations for your dog. Here are a few reminders of the things you need to watch out for, other than ghosts and goblins.

Candy

It's no surprise that dogs love chocolate, but it doesn't love them. In fact, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, and it doesn't take a large dose to cause problems. Another hazard that arises from candy is that many brands contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is poisonous to dogs

Make sure you keep your candy put away or on a high shelf where your dog can't reach it until the trick-or-treaters start coming to the house. And when your kids come home with a bucket full of candy, after you've checked it for potential hazards, help your kids find a safe place to hide their loot so your dog doesn't steal it.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include excessive urination, excessive drooling, increased heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, pupil dilation, hyperactivity, muscle tremors or seizures, and finally, coma.

If your kids are so young that they won't remember to throw away the wrappers when they're done eating some of their candy, you might want to provide a special waste receptacle near the candy stash. Dogs can easily choke on the cellophane or foil wrappers if they're left around on the floor.

Collie laying beside Halloween pumpkin
Halloween decorations can be a hazard for your dog.

Party Decorations

Make sure you consider how tall your dog is when you decorate for your Halloween party. Put streamers and candy corn dishes on the fireplace mantle or somewhere your dog cannot reach.

You might also consider locking the dog out of the kitchen when you are preparing your party food or "gross-out" stuff. For example, if you will have your party guests reach into a bowl of Jello to simulate blood and guts, make sure the dog doesn't get to the bowl first.

Your Jack-O-Lantern will undoubtedly be festive, but make sure your dog doesn't think it's his own personal treat because it's down on his level. It wouldn't be too hard for the dog to stick his or her head into the pumpkin and get stuck there!

If you will use a candle in your Jack-O-Lantern, make sure the pumpkin is placed somewhere the dog can't get to it. And if you use an electric light, watch out for cords that can be a trip hazard or a chewing enticement.

"Strangers" in costume

If you are hosting a costume party, you know that the guests will be your friends and neighbors. However, your dog only knows that your guests are strangers whose faces he cannot see. The costumes and masks may scare your dog, and scared dogs have been known to be very aggressive, even toward people they know.

Another risk is that masks very often impair vision. If you have a small dog, it's likely he or she will get stepped on while mingling with the guests.

It's not a bad idea to lock up your dog in another room, off-limits to the party-goers, or to crate the dog so he or she feels safe. If your dog doesn't take well to being away from the action, make sure your guests know that people food is not to be given to the dog

.

Keep the dog inside

Halloween seems to bring out the weird in people, so it's not shocking that dogs who are left outside on Halloween may become the subject of cruelty or abuse. Party-goers and trick-or-treaters may throw things at the dog or may leave gates open to allow your dog to escape.

Black dogs (and cats) are often targeted on Halloween, and should be closely monitored while outside during the month of October.

dog in Halloween spider costume
It may look cute but not all dogs enjoy wearing costumes.

Costumes for the dog

You've gotten the kids all squared away with their costumes, is it time now to dress up the dog? Maybe. If your dog is used to wearing clothes, he or she may enjoy the experience and want to participate. However, some dogs object to wearing clothes of any kind.

If you've not dressed your dog up before, keep it simple at first by tying a colorful bandanna around his or her neck to see how the dog reacts. If the dog tolerates the bandanna well, you can advance to putting a T-shirt on him or her to see how that goes. Watch for signs of stress such as panting, lip-licking, or growling.

If all goes well with the simple clothing and accessories, then you can try out a costume. Make sure the costume fits well - yes, they do come in sizes - and doesn't interfere with the dog's ability to eat, drink, run, and see.

If your dog will be outside wearing the costume, make sure the costume is highly visible so the dog can easily be seen by drivers and anyone else who could trip over him or her.

Finally, make sure the costume isn't too hot. If you live in a warm climate, or if Halloween happens to fall on a warm day, make sure your dog has easy access to his or her water dish and doesn't get over-heated in the costume.

Trick-or-Treat

How will you handle the three or four hours during Trick-or-Treating? Your dog may be scared or overly excited by all of the kids coming to the door. If you walk the dog with your kids while they go house-to-house, you are exposing the dog to candy dropped on the sidewalk or handed to him or her by well-meaning kids, as well as to discarded wrappers which may present a choking hazard.

When Trick-or Treat hours start, consider locking your dog up in a room or crate far away from the door you will be using to hand out candy. If your dog is free during the hours while kids will be calling, put a baby gate across the doorway so the dog can't escape when you open the door to hand out candy. Even better, take out the top window of the screen door so you can reach out without actually opening the door. If your dog isn't micro-chipped, make sure he or she is wearing ID tags, just in case.

If your dog was really freaked out last year, consider asking your vet for some medication you can give to help keep him or her calm.

Halloween can be fun for you, your kids, and your dog, as long as you think ahead to make sure all situations are safe for all concerned.

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