Stop! Look to your left. Look to your right. Look at your pet. If they are a dog or a cat, are they wearing a tag with their name, and your address and phone number on it? Before we get any closer to Halloween, if your pet doesn’t have an ID tag, go get one right now. You can likely find a collar and individually engraved tag for less than $10 total at your local pet store. If you are more tech inclined, you can get a GPS enabled collar for between $70 and $200. PC Mag has assembled a list of the best trackers and their pros and cons to help get you started on making a decision for your pet. Why do you need an ID tag? Here are some very important statistics: “1 in 3 pets will become lost in their lifetime, less than 2 percent of lost cats and only 15 to 20 percent of lost dogs make it back home to their families (per the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy), and most pets who do get home are wearing an ID tag or are microchipped or tattooed” (Healthypets.mercola.com). Halloween involves a lot of factors that may cause your pet stress, and generally lots of door opening and closing. IDing your pet gives them a better chance of getting back to you if they are able to “trick” you into letting them out.
Now that you’re back from getting your pet a collar and tag, here are 5 more tips to keep your pet safe on the spookiest of holidays – Halloween!
Make a designated place for candy out of reach of your pet
Do you have kids or a spouse who likes to leave food out? Use this opportunity to establish where Halloween candy will go in the house, out of the reach of your pet. We are partial to the fridge or freezer – who doesn’t love cold chocolate? If you don’t have room or prefer room-temperature candy (we won’t judge), consider a drawer your pet can’t get into in a pantry or similar safe space.
Chocolate is one of the most well known toxic human food substances for dogs, but it’s not the only candy type you should worry about. Xylitol, a sugar substitute, can cause catastrophically low blood sugar levels in dogs and other pets. Luckily xylitol isn’t typically found in your standard Halloween haul, but it is important to look out for as it is an ingredient in many chewing gums.
What do you do if your pet gets into some Halloween treats? Try to make a note of what kind of chocolate and how much. AKC.org recommends doing the following: “If you believe your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately and/or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) for advice. Based on your dog’s size and the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your veterinarian may recommend that you simply monitor him for the clinical signs listed above and call back if his condition worsens.”
Go easy on the costumes
Let’s face it, your pet has no idea it’s Halloween. They don’t know why you’re squeezing them into a devil costume (even if it is their alternate persona), and it probably feels pretty weird to deal with sleeves. Since you have no way of explaining to them that once a year we put on silly outfits and it is in-fact not forever, make sure you are patient with your pet if you want to get them into a costume, and consider you may need to scale back your plans or change them into a studded collar or a cute pumpkin themed harness. Before committing to any pet costume, “make sure it fits properly and is comfortable, doesn’t have any pieces that can easily be chewed off, and doesn’t interfere with your pet’s sight, hearing, breathing, opening its mouth, or moving. Take time to get your pet accustomed to the costume before Halloween, and never leave your pet unsupervised while he/she is wearing a costume” (AVMA.org).
If you get started now, you may be able to train your pet to tolerate their Halloween costume with some positive reinforcement, much praise, and a bag full of treats. Here are some general tips on how to train your dog that can be used to get them accustomed to their costume.
Watch out for tasty and wobbly decor
If you bust out the Jack-o-lanterns and spooky ghost decorations in force every year, be aware of tasty tidbits your cat or dog may chew when you’re looking the other way. Once you get a decoration that will be in your house put up, watch your dog or cat around it for a few hours. That’s usually enough time to see if they will be terribly frightened of it, or think it looks like a tasty lunch.
If you have Jack-o-Lanterns, consider fake candles or glowsticks to achieve a creepy look – the ASPCA points out “While a carved jack-o-lantern certainly is festive, pets can easily knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire. Curious kittens are especially at risk of getting burned or singed by candle flame.” Don’t let curiosity get your cat this Halloween season!
Make a plan for Trick-or-Treaters and don’t be afraid of signage
Are you going to be handing out candy? Hosting a party? Watching a scary movie and scowling at the kids running amok? Whatever your plan, have a plan for doorbells! If your dog is like almost every other dog that has somehow been taught what a doorbell is from birth, be ready for the ringing (and barking)!
If you will be giving out candy, turn on your porchlight and sit on the porch so costumed kiddos don’t ring the bell. Make sure your dog has done it’s business before the evening falls, and consider setting up a room with their bed/blanket, and favorite toys. If you want to get really fancy, there are some soothing dog music playlists on youtube.
If free candy isn’t your jam, remember to turn your outside lights off to let trick-or-treaters know your home isn’t participating in sugarpalooza, and consider putting a sign over the doorbell to discourage people who don’t know the rules from pressing it.
Keep your pet away from the door
This one is kind of obvious, but don’t risk your pets escaping and make sure to keep them away from your door. If you can section off your house so your pet stays away, that is ideal. Baby gates are awesome for dogs. Cats are a little slipperier, and tend to ignore any barricades you’ve put in place, so it may be best to keep them locked in one room for the evening (with their litter box, bed, and other items they have deemed theirs). Always check to make sure you know where your pet is before opening the door so you don’t get any escapees.
With these 6 tips, you and your pet can have an awesome halloween that’s scary because of ghosts and ghouls, not because of something happening to your pet. If you need someone experienced and careful to help your dog burn off some excess energy while you decorate for the holidays or to watch your pets during your Halloween preparations, Off Road Paws has a variety of options that may be right for you. Contact us today!