Tricks and treats: Tips to keep Halloween safe for your pet

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Duntong-Gallagher

So far this year, my dog has had to wear three Halloween costumes simply for my entertainment. In case you were wondering: No, dogs do not enjoy wearing masks. Luckily, I am not deterred by whether or not my pets want to do something, as long as they can do it safely. Which leads me to the yearly topic of pet Halloween safety.


Costumes are cute, they can be warm, and are typically hilarious for us as owners. What is cuter than a pumpkin cat or ice cream sundae dog? However, pets shouldn’t be left in costumes unattended. They can trip, eat, choke and get caught on them quickly and easily. Some pets will wear their costumes all day with joy. However, until you have figured that out, don’t just throw it on and head out to a PTA meeting.


Everyone loves candy, and I mean everyone. I am currently eating a delicious piece of Halloween candy that one of my thoughtful clients brought me. Dogs love candy more than cats do, but any pet can get into it.

As always, chocolate is toxic. Just because candy bars are “fun” sized doesn’t mean they are fun. Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure and seizures. The amount that they eat, quality of the chocolate and size of the pet make a difference. One fun-sized snickers bar isn’t as big of a deal as a bag of dark chocolate. However, this is a calculation your veterinarian can best do. Raisins are also toxic, so steer clear of the chocolate covered raisins.

Remember that bowls of candy, candy in lunch bags and backpacks, and hidden candy are also toxic. Please sit down and educate children on the importance of not just hiding candy from siblings, but not leaving it anywhere a pet can reach. Those snacks picked up at school parties and forgotten are one of the biggest culprits. Remember, sugar-free candy is toxic as well. Pets cannot have artificial sweeteners — sugar-free candy (and gum) can cause liver failure.

If you notice missing candy, wrapper bits strewn around or a guilty-looking pet/child; please call your veterinarian. The faster we see and can deal with chocolate toxicity the easier it is to treat.

If your pet ate a whole bowl of chocolate the day before, we are trying to play catch-up and manage their symptoms rather than intervene before problems start.

Trick or treating

Depending on where you live, trick or treaters may be plentiful. Not all pets are thrilled with the idea of yelling children dressed up like goblins and wielding plastic swords. If you have a dog that is knock or doorbell sensitive, consider alternate activities or placing a bowl of candy outside. Often a bowl set outside with a sign not to ring the doorbell works. Sometimes pets can go into a back part of the house or downstairs where the noise is less. For defensive dogs that bark at visitors, it is best to take them away from the situation. It can be overstimulating and actually train them to do the wrong thing.

If you have indoor-only cats that try to sneak out, keep them locked away. Doors get opened and held open while we “oooo” and “ahh” at the costumes and chat with the revelers. We can’t control the behavior of all the people coming to the door, so make sure that you are in charge of your pets’ whereabouts. Make sure that your pets are well identified in the case that they do sneak out. Microchip information should always be up to date, and if your pet wears a collar make sure the tag displays a working number. Because pets often are frightened when they are loose, keeping them indoors is still the best bet.

On this same note, some dogs love going out with the kids. Others are terrified by the running, unfamiliar characters. Please keep your dog’s personality and comfort zone in mind. We may see an adorable jedi knight, but our dog sees a loud, fast-moving creature with a glowing stick waving around.

So please keep pets safe, enjoy the holiday, and send any cute pet-in-costumes pictures (or candy) over to brighten my day.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL:

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