Pets are generally happy to perform tricks for treats. But when it comes to Halloween, it's up to their owners to make sure they get into the spirit safely, says Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Here are some suggestions to ensure an enjoyable and secure Halloween.
Dress for Success While some pets tolerate masquerading as vampires or hot dogs, others fare better with just a plain old bandanna. "A pet's ability to bear wearing a costume depends on the pet and its past experiences with clothes, collars, and harnesses," Miller says. Costumes should not impede a pet's ability to breathe, move, see, or hear. Avoid small sequins, hanging parts, and bells, and don't leave a pet unsupervised in costume. Try on the costume a week before Halloween. Have your pet wear the piece during positive times such as meals, walks, or play. A relaxed posture and tail is a sign that your dog or cat is comfortable. But if your pet seems restless or depressed, tries to bite or pull the clothes off, or hides, it's unhappy. If it acts agitated or "shuts down," don't force the issue.
Play It Safe Stick to pet-safe decorations in your home, such as cutouts or decals. Items such as pumpkins and decorative corn are relatively nontoxic, but they can cause upset stomachs. Display candlelit jack-o'-lanterns on an inaccessible shelf or use electric lights; avoid luminarias, since pets can knock them over. Also, think twice about putting up dangling cobwebs around cats. As you greet party guests or trick-or-treaters, keep pets in a separate room. "For pets, seeing strangers swarm the house in unusual shapes and sizes can be scary," Miller says. Dogs are naturally territorial, so keep an eye on your pet's behavior. When distributing candy, keep it in a secure container and out of a pet's reach, and place all wrappers in a securely closed trash bin. Remember: Chocolates, xylitol-sweetened candies, and gums are toxic to animals. If your pet ingests any of these, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).
Have Fun Before you take your dog to a parade or out trick-or-treating, consider how at ease it will be in a loud, strange-looking crowd. "Your pet is likely to be overwhelmed, so you must watch out for its safety and personal space," Miller says. If you see signs that your dog has had enough, go on home.