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essential tips

How to celebrate Halloween with your pets

Cue the pumpkin biscuits and cute dog costumes — spooky season is here. Here’s how to safely enjoy Halloween with your furry friends.

Updated October 14, 2021

Created By

Paige Bennett,
Dog wearing a Yoda halloween costumer

📷 by Justin Jason

Halloween is a fun and festive holiday for many humans, but it can be filled with risks and unwelcome frights for your pets. From the buckets of fun-sized chocolates to nerve-wracking costumes and plastic decorations covered in choking hazards, Halloween can be downright dangerous for our furry friends.

Luckily, with lots of love from pet owners and some precautionary measures, you can keep Fido and Fluffy safe this Halloween without missing out on any of the ghoulish delights you enjoy this time of year.

Avoid decorating with these items

It’s fun to go all out on Halloween decorations, but keep in mind that all those little plastic bits and bobbles can be dangerous for pets. They may end up tangled in the twinkling string lights and fake spider webs or could choke on rubber eyeballs or balloons that look deceptively like their favorite toys. Plus, revamping your home in faux blood may be festively gory for you, but changing a pet’s environment so drastically can actually make dogs and cats feel nervous and stressed.

Before you deck out your space in eerie decor, here’s a list of some hazardous Halloween decorations to keep out of your furry friends’ reach.

  • Lit candles. There are a couple issues with lit candles. For birds, the scents can be hazardous. Of course, an open flame is also a fire risk, especially if you have a cat that loves to jump and run throughout the house.
  • Rubber eyeballs. Rubber eyeballs can look a lot like a toy ball for pets, but these items are smaller and pose a choking risk.
  • Glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark jewelry. Glow sticks are filled with chemicals that can be poisonous for pets. These items are especially dangerous to cats. The chemicals can cause cats to heavily salivate and develop neurological signs, such as aggression. If your pet gets ahold of a glow stick, they may bite them open and ingest the chemicals inside.
  • Fake blood. Similarly to glow sticks, fake blood is made with chemicals that could be poisonous to your pets if they decide to lick it.
  • Spider webs. Many people put up fake spider webs inside and out for Halloween, but pets and even neighborhood wildlife can get tangled up in these webs. They’re also a choking hazard.
  • String lights. You may be tempted to put orange and purple string lights all throughout your home, but those thin wires and electrical cords are easy for dogs and cats to get tangled and stuck inside them. Puppies and kittens may also try to chew on electrical cords. If you do want to decorate with twinkling lights, make sure to hang them high outside to keep the cords out of reach for pets.
  • Decorative corn cobs. Plastic corn cobs are a choking hazard for pets who confuse them for real food. Real corn cobs used for decoration can cause gastrointestinal obstruction if dogs eat them, and this could lead to emergency surgery.
  • Balloons. Balloons can look like balls in your dog’s eyes, but when they go to grab the ball with their mouth, it will pop. The popped balloon can then get caught in your pet’s mouth or throat, causing a choking hazard.
  • Pumpkins. Try to keep these outside instead of inside. If you do have them inside, make sure they’re out of reach from your pet so they don’t eat them. Outdoors or indoors, make sure any lit pumpkins are out of reach from pets, too, to avoid burns or fires.

👉 Limit the use of sound and fog machines, these can cause stress in your pet. 

How to create your own pet-friendly decorations

Luckily, there are many pet-friendly Halloween decorations to consider when preparing your home for the spooky holiday. Plus, you can craft many of these decorations yourself, which is a fun and festive way to kick off the Halloween celebrations. Consider making cozy cardboard “haunted houses” for your kitty or offering some new Halloween-themed toys to help your pet enjoy the festivities.

Haunted house — Cats love cardboard boxes, so make use of the ones piling up in your recycling bin by drawing on them to make a spooky Victorian mansion.

Trick-or-treat bags — Yes, your pet can have their own little trick-or-treat session at home! Fill a bowl with new toys and a few treats, or consider getting a new puzzle toy to hide treats in for your dog. For cats, you can fill a paper bag (sans any handles that a cat could get stuck in) with toys and treats. After giving your pet new toys, always make sure to monitor them to ensure they don’t try to ingest the toys whole.

Scary signs — Signage is a great way to decorate for Halloween without interfering with your pet’s daily life. Make spooky signs to hang on doors and walls rather than hanging up the dangerous spider webs.

Don’t share candy with your pet

You probably know not to share chocolate with your dog, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to split a Starburst with Fido, either. Many candies aren’t suitable for pets. All kinds of chocolate are dangerous, but especially dark chocolate, because it contains higher levels of theobromine, which dogs can’t properly metabolize. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener and common ingredient in sugar-free candies, is also toxic to pets. Even a small amount of xylitol consumption can lead to seizures, low blood sugar, liver failure, or death in dogs and cats.

Keep your candy stashed away in a container that can be sealed or even locked, particularly if you have a very curious pet. Make sure you don’t leave kids unattended with candy, either, as they might think they’re being good by sharing candy with their best furry friends. Also make sure all candy wrappers are thrown away in a trash can with a lid to avoid any choking hazards.

🚨If you believe your pet consumed chocolate or another toxic substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Make spooky snacks for your furry friends

You can’t share candy with your pets, but you can make some homemade snacks to include your pet in the holiday festivities. There are many special pet-friendly treats you can make for Halloween, from treats made with pumpkin to little snacks shaped like bats. Pumpkin is high in fiber, making it a good ingredient for dogs in moderation. Here are some tasty Halloween treats to make for your pets this spooky season.

Pumpkin fro-yo bites. Combine plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, pure pumpkin puree, some Native Pet’s Pumpkin Powder, and water to make this healthy treat for your pets. Use fun ice molds in the shape of skulls or pumpkins to make these frozen treats extra-festive.

👉 Pumpkin is a healthy, vitamin-rich snack for pups! However, make sure you always use plain canned pumpkin with no salt or additives. 

Pumpkin pie cookies. These cookies are delicious and safe for cats and dogs. Combine grated carrots, unsweetened applesauce, pure pumpkin puree, rice flour, and oatmeal in a food processor, then cut them into cookies with Halloween-themed cookie cutters. Bake the cookies for 5-7 minutes per side at 350°F. Let the cookies cool completely before giving them to your pet.

Apple crunch pupcakes. Apple deserves its time to shine alongside pumpkin this season, too. For this seasonal treat for dogs, combine water, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla extract, one egg, honey, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and a chopped apple in a bowl. Pour the mixture into muffin tins and bake at 350°F for about 30 to 40 minutes. These treats are the size of human cupcakes, so be sure to break off small pieces before giving them to your pet.

Safe pet costumes

Pet Halloween costumes may be cute, but they can often cause stress in some pets. If your dog or cat seems stressed in any way, take their outfit off immediately. Signs of stress can include hunching, tucking the tail, shaking or trembling, rolling eyes, looking sideways, or folding down their ears. Even if your pet does seem to like their costume, you should always keep them under direct supervision, in case they happen to get caught in the outfit. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a costume for your pet:

  • Pick the correct size. If your pet doesn’t mind clothing, hats, or booties, make sure to choose outfits that fit your pet well and aren’t too large or small. This will help them feel more comfortable.
  • Avoid extra parts. Try to avoid outfits with lots of extra parts, like legs, wings, or tentacles, that could be chewed off.
  • Keep the face clear. Costumes with parts that shield your pet’s sight, hearing, or breathing are dangerous.
  • Don’t restrict movement. Make sure your pet can move normally and comfortably if they’re wearing a costume. That means everything from their legs to their mouths to their tails shouldn’t be restricted by the outfit.

How to introduce your pet to their costume

Once you’ve chosen a comfortable costume for your pet, you should start introducing the outfit several days or even weeks before Halloween to help them get used to wearing it. Keep in mind that even if you spend a lot of time in advance introducing your pet to the costume, they may still feel stressed when Halloween rolls around.

The combination of ringing doorbells, shouting kids, and people dressed up in addition to their own costume can be really overwhelming. So, if your dog begins showing signs of stress at any point while wearing the costume or while being introduced to it, take it off of them.

Introduce a piece at a time with treats — Break out some healthy treats and gather parts of the costume, such as a shirt, a bandana, or another accessory. Put one item on, then give your pet a treat. Don’t try to put everything on at once. Spend one day using treats to put on the bandana, and another day practicing putting on a sweater.

Use positive reinforcement — Similarly, you should use treats during the process of putting the main part of the costume on. Give your pet a treat after putting one leg into their outfit. Take the leg out and don’t give them a treat. Put the leg back in, give them a treat and some head pats.

Be calm and kind — Along the way and after putting the costume on entirely, make sure to talk to your pet in a calm, sweet voice and give them lots of pets, so they can better understand that the costume is safe.

Watch for body language — Your dog might wag their tail, or maybe your cat will rub against you and purr if they feel comfortable in their costume. Watch for these signs of approval, and of course, keep an eye out for signs of stress. Even if your pet approves of it, don’t leave it on for too long, and always keep a costumed pet under your supervision.

Pet safety tips for October 31st

The day of Halloween can become really stressful for pets. Think about it — your dog barks when delivery people ring your doorbell, so imagine how it feels for them to hear nearly constant rings or knocks from trick-or-treaters! Plus, neighboring homes might have fog machines, flashing lights, and automated decorations that play haunting noises on a loop. All of this adds up to a truly spine-tingling time, and not in a good way, for your pets. From microchips to crates, here are some Halloween pet safety tips to help.

Put pets in crates or their rooms — To keep pets calm, crate them or put them in a quiet room that feels safe. If you have people over for a Halloween party, make sure you put a sign up on the room door, so no one accidentally opens it and lets the pet loose.

Keep pets away from the front door — Costumes can make humans look especially intimidating to pets. They might try to run away, or they may become protective and will snap at strangers. If you aren’t crating your pet or confining them in a separate room for the evening, make sure you at least keep them as far from the front door as possible.

Sit outside for trick-or-treaters — A great way to prevent constant doorbell ringing or knocking from kids seeking candy is to sit outside and greet them from the porch.

ID tags for proper identification — Even if your pet is at home for Halloween, make sure to keep IDs with your phone number and address on their collar in case they escape.

👉 Make sure your pets are microchipped in case they escape out the door. 

How to ease your pet’s anxiety

Costumes can make humans look and even smell much different to pets — even your own family and friends may feel threatening to your dogs or cats. On Halloween night, your front door will be abuzz with activity, with kids knocking or ringing the doorbell in hopes of scoring some treats. Even the far-off sounds around the neighborhood can feel scary to pets, with kids shouting, lights flashing, and loud music or sounds playing.

Putting your pet in their crate or a safe area of the house may not be enough to ease their anxiety, so consider these methods to help them relax on Halloween.

Try a calming supplement — Calming supplements can help pets with anxiety. Talk to your veterinarian about calming supplements for anxiety. Give your pet one of these top calming supplements about 1 to 2 hours before trick-or-treat begins to help them relax.

Turn on a TV or soft music — Spooky outdoor sounds plus the constant noise of people walking by can be overwhelming. Turn on a calming TV channel or soft music to help mask the outdoor noises for your pet. Zoundz Music For Pets™ helps reduce pet anxiety with curated music just for your type of pet.

Offer a treat-filled puzzle toy — A puzzling toy filled with treats can help keep your pet’s mind occupied. This Fun Feeder by Outward Hound guides your dog through a puzzle as they eat their kibble, so their focus is on the food rather than the noises outside.

Dogs and pumpkins on halloween

📷 by Wikimedia Commons

Should you bring your pet trick-or-treating?

The best decision is to leave your pet at home during trick-or-treat activities. There are a lot of frightening stimulants that can spook your furry friend, plus you may come across hyper kids or other aggressive dogs, which could lead to bites. There’s also the risk of your dog getting tangled or choking on outdoor Halloween decorations, eating stray Halloween candy found on the ground, or running off.

If you have a very docile, friendly pet that you’d like to take trick-or-treating, use caution and follow these best practices to keep your pet and others safe.

Stay alert — Keep a close eye on your pet. Make sure they don’t eat any candy on the ground or given by a passing child. Walk them far from inflatables and other decorations. Watch for signs of stress or anxiety.

Bring dog treats, water, and baggies — You want to make sure your dog has everything they need during this special walk. Bring water in case they are thirsty, treats to encourage their good behavior, and baggies in case they need to relieve themselves along the way.

Use a no-pull harness — A no-pull harness can help keep your dog from tugging on the leash, giving you better control over where they are walking or trying to run to. A no-pull harness, such as this adjustable harness by 2 Hounds Design, gives you more control without compromising your dog’s comfort.

Prepare to leave if needed — Don’t force your dog to stay out all night. While they love long walks, dogs will likely begin to feel overwhelmed on a walk that involves lots of people, costumes, and scary noises. Make sure you can get your dog or cat home quickly if they start showing signs of nervousness or discomfort or you suspect they are tired or overwhelmed.