Pirate DogHalloween is a fun and festive time of the year for kids and adults alike, but for our precious four legged friends probably not so much. Keep in mind that on Halloween night children are excited and doing their best to be scary. This is not a fair or safe situation to put even the best of dogs in. Even the normally terrific and docile family dog can find this night hard to handle. Some will be confused, some will be over excited and some will be very afraid. Texas Pet Depot offers the following information to keep your pet happy and safe.

Trick or Treat?

Don’t trick your pet with unhealthy and potentially dangerous treats. The four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, raisins and candy wrappers. All forms of chocolate can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include elevated heart rate, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures. And while xylitol toxicity in cats has yet to be established, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Over the past year, more than 1,500 calls to Pet Poison Helpline involved exposure to chocolate and 97 percent of them involved dogs. Most dogs are attracted to the smell and taste of chocolate, making it a significant threat. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more poisonous it is.

If you think chocolate is the only candy that can do harm to your pet, guess again. Large ingestions of sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis. Potentially fatal, pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas and is very painful. Symptoms may take up to two to four days after your pet ingests the candy. Symptoms include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, and potentially, kidney failure or organ damage.

We all know that when pets eat candy they don’t bother to remove the wrappers. Ingestion of foil and cellophane wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction, which if severe, can require surgery to correct. Watch for vomiting, decreased appetite, not defecating, straining to defecate, or lethargy. Always call your veterinarian if your pet displays any of these symptoms.

There are people who prefer to distribute healthy snacks instead of candy on Halloween, such as mini-boxes of raisins. These are extremely poisonous to dogs! Very small amounts of raisins (and grapes) can cause kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats. In other words, they can ingest any amount and potentially be poisoned. Therefore, any amount of raisins or grapes should be treated as a “poisoning” case. The symptoms are closely related to those for pancreatitis which includes vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, and severe kidney failure.

During the week of Halloween, calls to the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline increase by 12 percent, making it the call center’s busiest time of year. Help keep your pet safe. If you think your pet has ingested something poisonous, the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline suggest that you get help sooner than later. It’s always easier, less expensive, and safer for your pet to be treated earlier, versus when he’s showing severe symptoms. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately at 1-800-213-6680. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. You can also download the Pet Poison Help iPhone app.

Not sure of what Halloween treat you should give your pet. To avoid issues, keep Halloween candy well out of the reach of pets at all times. Instead of guessing, play it safe and give your pet that store bought or homemade pet treat you know will keep him safe and happy.


Some dogs don't like to be dressed up! Even in the cutest costume ever made. It makes them anxious and uncomfortable. If your dog turns away, doesn't co-operate, tries to escape, growls, puts his teeth on you or the costume, then you know he doesn't want to wear it. Festive bandanas for the boys and hair bows for the girls will usually work just as well, or just leave the dog out of Halloween if he'd rather not participate.

Halloween costumes are fun and are meant to disguise our normal appearance. Dogs do not understand this and may become frightened. Costumes that change the way a person walks, stands, or their general appearance may cause a dog to react differently than usual even with people they know.

If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume is safe. It should not constrict his movement or hearing, impair his vision, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on your pet or get caught on external objects leading to injury. If the costume contains metallic beads, snaps or other small pieces, be aware that if ingested, some metals (especially zinc and lead) can result in serious poisoning. Also, don’t be tempted to dye or apply coloring to your pet’s fur. Even if the dye is labeled non-toxic to humans, it could still be harmful to pets.

Try on pet costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed or show abnormal behavior, consider letting them go in their “birthday suit”.

Keep Your Pet Safe

All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Not only will your door be constantly opening and closing on Halloween, but strangers will be dressed in unusual costumes and yelling loudly for their candy. This, of course, is scary for our furry friends. Dogs are especially territorial and may become anxious and growl at innocent trick-or-treaters. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets. My two Maltese will dart out the door every chance they get, scattering some children and causing others to want to pet and hug. While one of my Maltese is all for that, the other one not so much. Since they want to be a part of the action, I place a dog gate near the door so they can see, yet it blocks their means of escape. The funny thing is they don’t realize the gate is there to keep them from darting out, they think it is there to keep the scary humans from getting in.

You can also secure your dog or cat in a crate or behind a closed door in a room away from the action. Close drapes so that the dog does not see people coming and going through the window. This will only frustrate him and encourage him to bark and carry on at the window. Give him Hyper Pet Gnaws or other long lasting chew toys or treats. If you have a dog, like my two Maltese that barks at the sound of the doorbell, disconnect it or watch for trick-or-treaters so that they do not have to ring or knock. Use a fan or radio for white noise. Something consistent is best.

Pumpkins & Candles

Halloween Pumpkin

Keep candles out of the reach of curious noses and wagging tails. Sometimes pets don’t realize something is hot until they get burned. Should they get too close, they run the risk of burning themselves or knocking it over and causing a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over.

Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them. Such plants can induce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them in large quantities. Intestinal blockage can even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

ID’s Are A Must

If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that they will be returned. A collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that your pet will be returned to you. Just make sure the information is up-to-date.

I only put a collar and tags on my dogs when I take them out of the house but I found it is a good rule of thumb to put on their collar and tags while they are in the house on Halloween. Although my dogs are micro chipped, that extra layer of protection can never hurt.