Here are my suggestions to help pet owners keep their animals out of trouble during the days and weeks leading up to Halloween:
Be responsible. You may think pets ought to know better or feel a sense of guilt about eating an entire plate of goodies off the counter. But they don’t. It’s best to keep Halloween candy behind closed cabinet doors and out of the reach of pets.
Watch the chocolate: Exposure to chocolate accounts for about 95 percent of calls to the national Pet Poison Hotline. Chocolate can be extremely toxic to dogs. Remember that the darker, more refined the chocolate, the more likely you’ll see side effects in your dog. A small piece of Halloween candy is unlikely to cause a problem. But as the amount of chocolate ingested increases, so does the chance of toxicity. Contact your veterinarian if you know your dog has eaten chocolate. And as with many potentially harmful situations involving our pets, avoidance is often the best course of action. So remind children to pick up candy bowls and keep items well out of reach of pets.
Don’t tempt fate. Keep household garbage bins behind closed doors, too. If that’s not possible, keep them covered or frequently emptied. Keep in mind that other Halloween goodies besides chocolate can be harmful to pets as well. Foods containing high levels of fats or the artificial sweetener Xylitol can be tempting for pets but have detrimental side effects.
Provide an escape. Busy families with kids and friends coming and going should have a plan in place prior to guests’ arrival. If you have cats, take a moment to think about the placement of their food, water and litter boxes from their point of view. Make sure these resources won’t be in unusually loud places when friends and strangers are visiting.
Consider segregating. Dogs that are stressed out by the ringing doorbell and arrival of costumed guests at Halloween may fare better in a back room with their food, water, bed and a favorite toy—and even the radio or TV turned on to drown out the sound of visitors. For dogs that usually aren’t overly stressed by the presence of visitors, it’s still a good idea to offer food and toys such as rawhides in an environment free of distractions or competition.