Tips for having a safe and happy Halloween with dogs

Halloween must be a very confusing time for dogs with so many strange and unfamiliar sights and sounds. While we revel in the spooky festivities it can be easy to forget that our four-legged friends might have a different experience. It’s also important to be aware of the numerous hazards that can put our dogs in danger at this time of year.

We’ve written up some tips to help you make this year a happy Halloween for dogs and humans alike.

Image of a dog with halloween decorations for Vets Now article on dog halloween safety tips

1. Keep chocolate out of reach

Chocolate might be an important part of Halloween for humans but it should be kept well out of your dog’s reach. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which is toxic to dogs and mainly affects the guts, heart, central nervous system, and kidneys. Darker chocolate typically contains the most theobromine but it is still found in milk chocolate. While there is very little theobromine in white chocolate it is still laden with fat and sugar which can cause stomach upset and, in extreme cases, may lead to serious illness. Read our in-depth chocolate advice article for more information.

2. Stash the sweets

If you’re giving out Halloween treats this year be sure to keep them away from your dog. Many sweets, cakes and diet foods contain the sugar substitute xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs. Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination and can lead to seizures. Xylitol poisoning can be fatal for dogs so make sure the sweet treats are for humans only. If you opt for alternative healthy treats, keep in mind that grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants can also be poisonous to dogs.

3. Reconsider costumes

Dressing your dog up for Halloween might provide some lighthearted entertainment for humans but costumes can be uncomfortable and distressing for dogs. There is a risk that they could restrict their movement or hinder their ability to see, bark or breathe. Even if your dog doesn’t seem to mind wearing a costume keep in mind that some dog Halloween costumes are extremely flammable and can igniting in seconds, which could result in tragedy. We tested the flammability of a number of popular dog Halloween costumes – our video below reveals the shocking results.

4. Keep them away from activities

Groups of strangers in unusual clothes appearing at your door is part and parcel of Halloween but this can be confusing and frightening for your pet. It’s best to keep dogs in a separate room away from all the activity to ensure they’re not scared by so many visitors and, crucially, can’t escape out the door while it is open. You should make sure your dog is microchipped and the details up to date in case they do manage to sneak out the door.

5. Keep them indoors

Keeping dogs in the garden on Halloween is not recommended. Not only could they be distressed by the large, loud groups of people dressed in costumes but they are at risk of being targeted by ‘pranksters’ who may not be considerate of your dog’s welfare. It’s best to keep them safely indoors.

6. Glow sticks

These bright, colourful tubes might look like an interesting chew toy to your dog but they contain chemicals which can irritate their mouth – commonly causing drooling, foaming from the mouth, vomiting and stomach pain. If you’re worried your dog has ingested any of these chemicals contact your vet or out of hours, your nearest Vets Now for advice.

7. Beware of pumpkins

For many, Halloween wouldn’t be complete without a carved pumpkin lit from within by a candle. However, it’s vital that they are placed high enough that your dog can’t accidentally knock it over and cause a fire. Also, be sure to throw your pumpkin away before it gets old as mouldy food can contain dangerous mycotoxins which are highly dangerous to dogs.