This is our first Halloween with our dog; when I received these tips from the SPCA on how to keep pets safe on Halloween, I knew right away that I have to spread them around…
“Loud noises can cause animals to panic putting both pets and children in danger,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of Community Relations for the BC SPCA in Vancouver. “Farm animals are at risk, too. Dogs or cats could dart into traffic or jump through windows, while frightened farm animals could run into barbed-wire fences or other obstructions. Dogs can also act out of character at the sight of strangers in costumes coming to your door.”
My dog is already a little uneasy when she sees the Halloween decorations around the neighborhood — especially when we walk at 6 am before the sun comes up! I expect her to be a little nervous on October 31. That’s why these SPCA tips for pet safety caught my eye, and why I want to share them.
About Halloween costumes for pets: some dogs and cats don’t mind wearing clothes, while others hate it. Before you dress your pet up, make sure he or she is comfortable wearing clothes.
If you’re dressing your pet in a Halloween costume, be aware that costumes inhibit your dog’s ability to communicate to other dogs. In a chance meeting with another dog, your dog may give off signals that inadvertently lead to an aggressive confrontation.
The Star Wars Yoda Dog Costume pictured is from BuyCostumes.com. It’s super cute, but not suitable for every dog.
On to the pet safety tips from the Vancouver SPCA…
How to Keep Your Pets Safe on Halloween
While Halloween is fun for trick or treaters, it can be a scary and dangerous time for pet dogs and cats – and even farm animals.
Keep your pets inside on October 31
Prevent your pets from escaping or confronting trick or treaters by keeping them in a quiet room. Turn on a radio or TV to help suppress outside sounds and knocks at the door. You may consider disabling your doorbell for the night if your dog is the type that gets excited whenever it rings.
Halloween is a good time to make sure your pet has identification – a tag and a tattoo or microchip – in case your pet gets lost. Cats need identification too – even indoor cats — in case they bolt from fright. If your cat goes outdoors, consider keeping your cat indoors during the Halloween season. This is an easy Halloween safety tip that can save your cat’s life!
Don’t feed candy and chocolate to pets
“Any sudden diet change will cause stomach upset in your animal,” says Dr. Jamie Lawson, BC SPCA chief animal health officer. “Feeding animals candy can lead to health problems such as diabetes or obesity,” says Lawson, “and chocolate is especially dangerous because it naturally contains theobromine, an ingredient which is toxic to cats and dogs.”
Even if it’s not Halloween, you should never, ever feed candy or chocolate to your dogs, cats, or other animals.
Remember that loud bangs panic some animals
Exploding fireworks can affect pets in varying degrees. Some dogs will howl, while others might cower and whine. “I’ve seen cases where a dog has bolted in fear right through a screen door. The dog was gone for days just because of a loud bang,” says Dr. Dave Sedgman, veterinarian with Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. “In extreme cases animals, will try to dig into a hardwood floor or even jump through a plate glass window in fear.”
For more tips on how to keep your pets safe on Halloween, read the SPCA’s fact sheet on reducing anxiousness in dogs.
Don’t console your pet when he or she is frightened on Halloween
It may seem counter-intuitive but be careful not to react in a consoling manner to your pets when there are loud noises.
Saying things such as “it’s OK” or “don’t be scared” in a soft, sympathetic voice will actually reward the fearful behaviour and make your dog think you are frightened, too.
Instead, use a happy, upbeat and high pitch tone of voice or be very matter-of-fact when your dog is showing fear. Sometimes this is enough to change the emotional state of your dog. Distracting your dog with toys or play, and turning on a radio or television will also help focus your dog on other things. Try not to show surprise or fear at fireworks yourself. Dogs take their cues from you, so if you are relaxed and confident they will be less anxious.
Don’t take your pets trick or treating on October 31
On Halloween night, leave your dog at home while trick or treating; bring dogs and cats indoors; and set off legal fireworks in areas away from pets and farm animals. Dogs may react out of character when they encounter people in costumes – kids and adults – particularly fearful dogs.
By thinking about the animals, Halloween will be a safer and stress-free occasion, as well as fun for kids.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your pets on Halloween! If your pet doesn’t mind being dressed up, check out these Halloween Costumes for Dogs and Cats.