Even though Fido would look adorable as a pumpkin and Fifi would look super cute as a ballerina, costumes can cause more anxiety than joy for your four-legged family members.
“Some pets really don’t seem to mind being dressed up in a costume while others find it very stressful. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume unless you are certain that they can tolerate it,” said Brian Weltge, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. “Also, please make sure that a costume is safe and does not constrict your pet’s movement or their ability to breathe freely.”
Emma Blackman-Mathis, kennel and facilities manager of SICSA: The Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals in Kettering, stresses that costumes should not restrict vision or be left on unattended pets.
The commotion caused by trick-or-treaters can stress pets and providing them with a safe haven will make the night easier to handle.
To ease their anxiety from strangers at the door and constant doorbell ringing, Mark Kumpf, director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in Dayton, suggests keeping pets in a separate room with music on to mask the Halloween activity and utilizing a Thundershirt, an item designed to calm pets during thunderstorms.
Blackman-Mathis says cats also need a safe place to retreat to when stressed out; the basement, bathroom or bedroom that has your cat’s bed or crate will help ease tension. Treats are a good idea, too.
Don’t let your open door to trick-or-treaters let your pets out.
“With doors opening a lot, make sure pets have their current collars and licenses on,” Kumpf said. “Go out immediately and look for your pet if your pet gets out or lost. At the Resource Center, we have a lost and found in real time.”
If hosting a party, pet owners should keep their pets in a room, away from the party, according to Weltge.
“Even if your pet is ‘really friendly’ and typically doesn’t mind loud noises, music and lots of people, you should keep them separate for the night,” Weltge said. “Holiday decorations such as carved pumpkins, electrical cords, plants, decorative corn should be kept away from your pets. Don’t leave any lighted candles or Jack-O-Lanterns out where they could be knocked over by a swinging tail or by a curious cat. Not only could your pet start a fire, but they could severely burn themselves in the process.”
Taking pets out trick-or-treating should be a well-thought-out decision.
“Families should think twice before taking pets out trick-or-treating. Costumes can make pets go off. Dogs can get stressed out. People tend to go over the top with Halloween decorations — dry ice, spooky sounds — for people, it’s great, but that can scare pets,” Kumpf said. “If there’s 15 zombie skeletons outside, and a dog walks up and sees it — you don’t know how he’s going to react. Halloween is for people, not for pets.”
According to Weltge, children and adults in costumes can be frightening to pets.
If taking your pet trick-or-treating, Blackman-Mathis recommends standing at the curb instead of going up to doorways or into large groups of people. She also advises that kids should not approach any animal they don’t know. Kids should always ask the owner if it’s OK to approach the dog and to trust the owner if he or she says the dog is nervous. When approaching an animal after getting permission, people should remove any mask, approach slowly, turn sideways, and squatting down can help.
“Any time you let the dog come to you is a good idea,” Blackman-Mathis said.
Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without candy, and just like costumes, candy can be harmful to pets.
“Don’t allow dogs to eat anything off the ground. They are always curious and don’t know what might be harmful to them,” Blackman-Mathis said.
Keep a watchful eye on pets if candy is within reach.
“Halloween treats are great for kids, but a lot of candy is hazardous for pets. They can gnash into a bowl of treats,” Kumpf said.
Weltge warns that chocolate can be very dangerous for dogs and cats and advises pet owners to call their veterinarian, the Care Center at 937-428-0911 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 if they think their pet has eaten any candy.