Halloween Candy. (c) 2011 Theresa A. GrenierWhile Halloween is an exciting time for us humans, it can be a downright scary and stressful time for dogs. Tons of people who may or may not actually look like people, constant noise and activity, doorbells ringing, doors opening and closing – all of this can be highly upsetting to many dogs. If not celebrating Halloween is not an option at your house, here are some guidelines from DogWatch to help you keep your dog safe and sane on the scariest night of the year.

1. Remember, chocolate is a doggie don’t. While we love our sweet treats, chocolate can be deadly to dogs in large amounts, and even a small amount can cause illness. Filling the candy bowl with non-chocolate treats is a good precaution, but the best bet is to keep ALL candy safely out of reach of your dog (better to be extra cautious in this case; as you know, a determined dog will go to great lengths to get something he feels is being withheld from him), and do not leave the treat bowl unsupervised. When you’re not using it, secure it in a cabinet out of your dog’s reach. Consider having some special treats reserved for your dog, so he doesn’t feel deprived when everyone is snacking except him. Also, familiarize yourself with the signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs, so you will know if you need to call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. These signs include: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated heart rate, and in severe cases, seizures.

2. Dispose of candy wrappers immediately and properly. Candy wrappers are often made of foil or cellophane, and thus they are shiny and appealing to dogs, who don’t realize that they shouldn’t be eaten. Ingestion of candy wrappers can lead to intestinal blockage, which can be life-threatening and often requires surgical intervention. Signs of an intestinal blockage can include vomiting, decreased appetite, not defecating, straining to defecate, or lethargy.

3. Raisinettes? More like Raisin-NOTS. Many people are unaware that raisins, which are present in some candy and also occasionally distributed by health-conscious households, can be deadly for dogs. Even a very small amount of raisins (as well as grapes or currents) can cause kidney failure. Make sure to keep these fruits away from your dog, and know to look out for signs like vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain in your dog. If these are present, or you observe your dogs actually eating raisins, call your vet or local emergency animal hospital immediately.

4. Glow No! Keep glow sticks and other Halloween accessories and decorations out of reach. The shine of glow sticks, flashing of Halloween lights, and movement and ease of access of low-hanging streamers are all highly tempting to dogs, and all potentially dangerous. Make sure to keep glow sticks out of reach (ingestion can cause mouth and throat irritation), lights and electrical cords secured, and avoid low-hanging streamers (dogs could ingest them and develop nausea or even an intestinal blockage).

Westie watches the Halloween festivities. Photo by Randy Robertson via Flickr.5. Dogs and fire do not mix! Jack-o-Lanterns and other festive lighting containing open flames are considerable dangers with dogs around. Keep them high up where your pup can’t get at them (or snack on them)! A curious or exited pup could easily knock the pumpkin or candle over and start a house fire, or burn his sensitive nose of paws!

6. Ding, dong, dash! The constant opening and closing of the front door all night may provide scared and adventurous dogs alike the opportunity for a quick escape, as well as cause excess excitement or fear (which could cause unusual and unexpected aggression in some dogs). We suggest keeping your dog indoors in a confined area (whether a room with a closed door, or an area defined by a DogWatch Indoor Boundary system), and making sure your dog is wearing its collar with the proper identification information in case he does somehow manage to escape outside. Keeping your dog inside for the night will also keep it safe from individuals who might think your dog is the perfect opportunity to play a “trick.” It’s sad that people would harm an innocent dog, but it does happen, so best to err on the side of caution.

Tired dog! Photo by Matt Urick via Flickr.7. A tired dog is a happy dog. If you know your dog tends to be excitable around lots of activity, consider taking him out for a long walk and tiring him out before trick-or-treating starts in your neighborhood. In extreme cases, consult your veterinarian about a safe way to sedate your dog for the evening.

8. Be careful with costumes. Dressing up dogs is fun (and funny), but when you do so, make sure the costume is safe for the dog. It should not have small pieces that the dog could chew off and ingest, and should not restrict the animal’s vision, hearing, or ability to breathe properly. Make sure elastic bands for headpieces are not too tight, and that hats don’t fall in your dog’s eyes. It is also advisable to use flame-retardant costumes (see our advice on jack-o-lanterns and candles above). A safe alternative to doggie costumes would be a festive bandana or t-shirt designed especially for dogs.

DogWatch wishes a happy and safe Halloween to you, your family, and your dogs!

Helpful links and phone numbers:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435

Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661

Information in this article was taken from the ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline.

Photo credits (top to bottom):

Theresa A. Grenier

Randy Robertson via Flickr

Matt Urick via Flickr