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  • Writer's picturelarawalker

Halloween Pet Safety Tips

Halloween can be a very stressful, scary, and dangerous holiday for dogs and cats. Although trick or treating crowds may be small again this year due to COVID and there may be less candy and costume debris on the day after, it is still important to be vigilant when it comes to your pets' safety.


Capitol Hill is very popular on Halloween. I’m not sure what it will look like this year but we usually have very busy street traffic and sidewalks with loud and unpredictable costumed crowds. Adding a dog to this mix can be a recipe for disaster, especially for the dogs.

You may think it’s a good idea to dress up your dog and go trick-or-treating but your dog will be happier and safer at home. This is especially true for puppies, small breeds, and skittish dogs – particularly recent rescues. It can also be overwhelming for older dogs. As dogs age their tolerance and comfort for noise and stress change, just like us.

Please make sure you walk your dog as early as possible. Our neighborhood gets record crowds on this day, some years we see thousands of people come through. The smaller kids start out at around 5/530PM. That is still a relatively safe time to walk your dog though keep in mind that very few parents teach kids not to run or scream around dogs anymore and children will often instinctively reach out to pet a dog. Dogs will instinctively chase and/or jump at people who run at/or towards them. A dog can easily knock a child down in such a scenario.

Once the big crowds are out, it’s just best to have your dog at home. If you’re not going to be home with them, keep your front porch and front room lights OFF so people don’t ring your bell incessantly and drive your dog crazy. It’s best to leave your dog towards the rear of the house with easygoing music such as classical or new age, or white noise. If your dog is especially skittish and responds to the ThunderShirt, this is a good day to use it.

If we have large crowds this year, do not walk your dog during peak trick-or-treating hours of 6-9PM. Trick-or-treaters in our area are often out until 10-11PM, even on a school night – so wait until at least 10PM to go out again for your dog’s bedtime walk.

CATS Kitties can equally be scared and harmed on this holiday. Keep your cats away from the front door while you hand out candy to make sure they don’t get spooked and run out when the door is open. And if you have indoor/outdoor cats, please bring them inside for their safety. You don’t want to heighten the risk of them running into a passing car if spooked or being harmed by someone as a Halloween prank.

Most important:

  1. Keep candy away from pets, both dogs and cats. Chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins, and Xylitol are dangerous to pets.

  2. Throw candy wrappers away. Aluminum foil and cellophane packaging can cause intestinal blockages and vomiting when ingested.

  3. Save tricks for the kids. Masks, face paints, screaming, and loud noises can scare animals.

  4. Keep pets inside. Block access to your front door during trick or treating. Keep pets in a calm space and make sure they’re wearing their ID tags in case they bolt.

  5. Avoid animal costume chaos. Make sure costumes fit well and don’t stress out your pet.

  6. Make sure your pets are wearing their collars and ID tags & microchip info are all up to date.

  7. Take your dog out for a walk before/after peak trick-or-treating times and make sure he is leashed. DC has a leash law that requires all dog owners to leash their dogs (for their/everyone’s safety) at all times and you’ll especially want to heed this law on Halloween. I would recommend avoiding flexi leashes on this day, keep your dogs close to you with a 4 ft leash.

THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN One last thing… on the day after Halloween, sidewalks are an obstacle course of candy and chocolate. In the dog walking world, we consider it the worst dog walking day of the year! Please keep that in mind when you take your dog out for his morning and evening walks on the day after – and watch for things your dog may try to pick up. Every dog’s tummy is different and while one piece of candy or chocolate may not harm them, it’s best if they don’t eat any. The sidewalks and streets are also commonly littered with remnants of costumes, toxic glow sticks, and other decorations which could be hazardous if ingested by your dog. If your pet ingests something foreign, keep your eyes open for signs of distress. These signs include:

  1. Vomiting

  2. Inability to keep food down

  3. Straining during defecation

  4. Blood or mucous in the stool

  5. Unable to get comfortable while resting

  6. Pacing

  7. Straining to vomit

  8. Sudden weight loss

  9. Diarrhea

  10. Refusing food

  11. Overall weakness

These symptoms may manifest over a period of time but once they start appearing, you should not ignore them since your dog’s health can deteriorate rapidly. The appearance of any of these symptoms should be addressed by a veterinarian. If your regular veterinarian is unavailable, you should seek immediate assistance from an emergency veterinary clinic.


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