Halloween Pet Protection Guide: Minimizing the Risk So Everyone Can Have Fun

Photo courtesy of Dr. Marty Becker
Dr. Marty Becker's "Grand-Pugs" Bruce and Willy.

Is it just me, or has Halloween gone to the dogs?

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, of course. But I have noticed these days I’m more likely to see a clever costume on a dog than a child when I open my email or check out Facebook. When I do see a child dressed in costume — like my own precious granddaughter, Reagan — chances are my “grandpug,” Bruce, will be in costume right beside her.

As a parent, grandparent and veterinarian, I can’t help but think of all the things that can ruin those happy pictures and memories.

Keeping Your Pets Safe

Here’s my list of things to look out for, with tips on preventing problems.

The Great Escape: After the Fourth of July, Halloween is the holiday more pets go missing than any other time during the year. Between the bizarre sights and smells and the constant flow of new people, even the tamest cats and dogs may take the opportunity to head for the hills. The solution: Make sure you know where your pets are, and make sure they’re secured before twilight. For dogs with yard access, make sure your fence has no loose boards and that the gate is locked. Indoors, keep cats and dogs comfortable in a closed room or crate until the last trick-or-treater has come and gone.

Candy Envy: An excited dog may see you passing out “treats” and think he should get one, too — even if that means taking the treat out of a mini-Superman’s hand or sticking his muzzle in a trick-or-treater’s bag. Securing your pet away from the fun will keep the begging (and stealing) at bay. Afterward, make sure all candy is out of reach — no bags left around for scavenging. And be aware that the two biggest problems with Halloween treats are chocolate and the artificial sweetener Xylitol. Many of you know that though chocolate for most dogs usually means just a bellyache, it can be deadly. You may not know of the life-threatening dangers of candy and gum sweetened with Xylitol. Check not only candy bags but also purses and backpacks to make sure there aren't hidden dangers a creative pet can get into.

Door Duty: Dogs are territorial and curious by nature, and with so much action at the front door, your dog may be inclined to protect you from strangely dressed invaders. While teaching dogs not to bark at, rush or run out the door is the best long-term solution, your best short-term solution is keeping your hand on your dog’s collar (good), using a leash (better) or crating your pet away from the door (best). And don’t underestimate what a frightened cat can do: Keep your cat in another room to prevent his running away.

Stranger Danger: Even though dogs have a much keener sense of smell than we do, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try to protect you from the neighborhood children when they are dressed like Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow or a Smurf. In addition to keeping your dog away from the door, you might want to skip the evening walk on Halloween. If you do go out, make sure your dog is on-leash, so even if he does get alarmed, you can better control him.

And one more thing: Dressing up your dog is great fun, and most dogs are happy to be in on the joke. If yours isn’t, don’t push. However, if your dog falls into the former camp, make sure his costume fits well but is also something he can move easily in.

And don’t forget your camera for some super Howl-o-ween pictures. I know I won’t, and I’ll share what my daughter, Vetstreet dog trainer Mikkel Becker, comes up with for Reagan and Bruce. Please share yours with us on Vetstreet's Facebook page.

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