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Ask Dr. Jenn: How Can I Keep My Dog and Cat Safe During Halloween?

We just moved into a new neighborhood with lots of young children. How can I help my dog and cat feel safe and not anxious with a bunch of kids in costumes coming to the door?

September 25, 2023 3 min read
Ask Dr. Jenn: How Can I Keep My Dog and Cat Safe During Halloween?

Congratulations on your new home! Good for you for thinking of your pets at the beginning of the month instead of two hours before the trick-or-treaters arrive. There are a few important things you can do make the night easier on them.

Desensitize your pets to the sound of the doorbell

If your pets aren’t used to ringing doorbells or a loud knock on the door, you can work with them to desensitize them. Just a few minutes a day can greatly reduce the anxiety associated with these loud noises. Do your pets have a favorite treat? If yes, have a bag of the beloved treats next to you. Sit next to your pets or hold one or both in your lap. (Depending on your pets, you may have to work with them separately). While you are with your pet(s), have another person ring the doorbell. If your dog charges toward the door, tell him to “stay”, hold him in place, give him a treat, and give him lots of praise. If your dog is terrified of the noise, comfort him and give him his favorite treat.

Your cat is less likely to charge at the door, but she may go into hiding with the noise. If she has a safe hiding place, take her there and give her treats and praise. Otherwise, do the same as you did with your dog. Follow this procedure five to ten times a night and hopefully, your pets will start associating someone at the door with getting treats and praise rather than something to be afraid of.

If your dog is still charging the door on Halloween, keep him on a leash or confined to a kennel or room with a closed door. If you are worried your cat may slip out an open door, find a safe, confined place for her as well.

If your pet has severe anxiety and doesn’t respond to desensitization, talk to your veterinarian about medication options.

Keep dogs and cats away from candy and toxic food

As you most likely know, chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Make sure you keep the treats out of his reach. Cats can handle chocolate better and don’t have the same sweet tooth as dogs, so your Hershey bars are probably safe from her.

Even if you forgo chocolate treats, keeping the bowl of treats away from your pets is still important. The wrappers, sticks, and unchewed candy can cause a foreign body obstruction if your pets get into them. Treats higher in fat, such as peanut butter cups, can cause gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Some treats may contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that causes low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.

Choose pet costumes carefully

Costumes for pets are quite popular and fun. When picking out a costume, make sure it is designed for animals and fits properly. If the costume is too loose, it may slip out of place and be a trip hazard. If it is too tight, it may cause sores. Pieces that aren’t well secured can be a choking hazard or cause an intestinal obstruction if swallowed.

I hope you and your pets have a fun and safe Halloween. To all our readers who dress their pets up, please send photos. I love pets in costumes!

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