- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Ghosts, goblins, loads of chocolate, and dogs? They don’t always mix well. Halloween is a holiday full of not-so-hidden dangers for dogs, and may not be your furry friend’s favorite day of the year.
Paws Off The Chocolate
It’s the most obvious danger of Halloween—the candy. A giant stash of chocolate may be fun for our two-legged kids, but it could literally kill our dogs.
“Not all chocolate is going to be toxic to your dog,” Dr. Mahaney explains. “Dark chocolate has the most potential; milk chocolate is less concerning, but can still be toxic depending on the type and amount consumed.”
Keep the candy far out of your dog’s reach—even the counter isn’t safe for large dogs who can counter surf.
“Prevention is key to avoiding a scary Halloween incident,” Demling says. “If your pup tends to counter surf or steal food, the safest place for him may be in his crate with a yummy bone or interactive toy during trick-or-treat time.”
If your dog gets his paws on candy, swift action is important to prevent potentially deadly damage. Some of the perhaps less-obvious signs of chocolate poisoning include:
- Restless behavior
- Increased respiratory or heart rate
- More energy than normal
- Need to potty more often or more than usual
Assess the situation by using this online chocolate toxicity meter, where you can input your dog’s weight, the amount and type of chocolate he ate, and determine the level of emergency. You can also call the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) to determine if your dog needs immediate medical attention.
And remember, it’s not just chocolate that’s a danger to our dogs.
“Sugar, fats, and other ingredients in Halloween candies can also cause digestive upset,” Dr. Mahaney adds. “Nuts, nut butters, and other fats can also cause pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas.”
Kids love dressing up on Halloween but it can be downright confusing for our dogs.
“Your dog will not understand why the neighborhood kid he loves so much has suddenly turned into a monster!” Demling jokes.
A constant barrage of visitors at the door dressed as superheroes, vampires, and ghouls can be very stressful for a dog, especially a nervous pooch.
Demling says she “preaches prevention.” Here are her tips for keeping your dog calm when trick-or-treaters come knocking:
- If your dog is nervous, or likes to bolt, make sure he is secured in a separate room with a favorite toy or treat.
- Place a baby gate to prevent your pooch from going near the entryway. For larger dogs, try a tall pet gate.
- If your dog is not a fan of Halloween, walk him before dusk. “This will ensure he is well exercised and tired before the festivities begin,” Demling adds.
- Praise your dog and toss him a yummy treat every time the doorbell rings, and he doesn’t react. “This will not only keep him from running to the front door—because he is busy eating his treat—but will help teach him that kids in costumes means fun instead of stress,” Demling explains.
- Make sure your dog is wearing his current ID tags and his microchip information is updated, just in case he tries to escape.
Dressing Up Doggy
You may think the hottest new dog costume is the Cutest. Thing. Ever. But if your dog is not used to wearing clothes, it could be cause for concern.
“He won’t understand the appeal of being a pumpkin or ghost for the night,” Demling says. “Plus, if he is already nervous and you put him in clothes that restrict his eyesight or movement on top of it, he is more likely to be reactive to all the other chaos of the Halloween holiday.”
If a pet costume is a must-have for you, put your dog in the costume, snap a picture, and take it off.
“You could also look for simpler costumers that are easier for the dog to adjust to,” Demling adds. “Looser fitting, no hats or wings—things like that.”
The Bottom Line
The spooktacular fun of Halloween can be a little intimidating for a dog who doesn’t understand all the hoopla. When it comes to your furry friend, be mindful of where you put the chocolate, exercise him early to drain his energy, and reward him with dog-safe treats when he is non-reactive to trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!