How To Keep Your Pet Safe On Halloween, According To Vets

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Halloween is fun in so many delightfully spooky ways. And while many of us humans have a strange love affair with freaking ourselves out in the name of the Halloween spirit all season long, we really can't assume that our pets feel the same. Truthfully, some of the things that make Halloween Halloween — such as costumes, candy, and spooky decorations — can be scary or even deadly for animals, so it's important to know how to keep your pet safe on Halloween. Because while being scared can sometimes be fun for us, being scared is just plain scary for animals, and it's our responsibility to keep them safe no matter what festivities the season calls for.

Americans are set to spend more than $9 billion on Halloween-related purchases in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, so there's certainly no shortage of celebrations happening. But the survey also found that people are actually expected to spend more on their pets on Halloween this year than they ever have before, with 18 percent of pet owners reportedly planning to dress up their animals in costume (that's two percent more than last year). That makes it extra important to consider animals' needs at this time of year.

Thankfully, it's easy to indulge and have some Halloween fun all while being a responsible pet guardian and keeping your animal safe and sound. Follow these simple tips to keep your pet happy and safe throughout the Halloween season.

Halloween Costumes Aren't Always Fun For Pets

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Yes, I know, animals in costumes are a-freaking-dorable, but we should never sacrifice our pets' comfort for the sake of Halloween. "Watch for signs of stress or anxiety when dressing your pet in costume," explains Dr. Ari Zabell, DVM, DABVP, at Banfield Pet Hospital. You know your animal best, so if they seem stressed, uncomfortable, or unable to move freely, ditch the costume altogether. You can always opt for a cute Halloween-themed doggy bandana or a simple but festive Halloween bowtie collar as a compromise that will give your pet a festive look without the discomfort. For those animals that are chill with wearing a costume, Dr. Zabell advises: "If your pet welcomes a costume, make sure it doesn’t limit movement, hearing, eyesight, or the ability to eat food or drink water." Your animal's comfort and safety is way more important than a costume, no matter how Instagram-worthy it may have been.

Candy Is Dandy — Unless You're An Animal

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While us humans may all be overdosing on kid-sized sweet treats this Halloween, make sure you don't leave the candy bowl accessible to your animal friends. "Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that can be poisonous to dogs and cats, and dark, semi-sweet and bakers’ chocolate can be lethal," warns Dr. Zabell. "Caramel apple sticks can also be swallowed and cause choking or an intestinal blockage, as can candy wrappers and packaging." Avoid a veterinary disaster by keeping candies far, far away from anywhere your pets can reach. If you do suspect your cat or dog ingested some candy or its packaging, bring them to the vet immediately.

Pet-Proof Your Spooky Halloween Decorations

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I'm a massive sucker for over-the-top Halloween house decor, but if you have pets in your home, make sure you're decorating with their safety in mind. "Tinsel, ribbon and string are dangerous for pets, as they may cause severe injury to the intestinal track if swallowed," warns Dr. Zabell, who also advises to keep string lights and extension cords out of reach, as animals can chew them and experience an electric shock. And whether you're lighting a slew of witchy candles in a Halloween séance or just putting a tiny tea light in your Jack-O-Lantern, practice fire safety and keep flames far from your furry friends.

Keep Your Animals Inside & Away From The Front Door

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While animals should never be outdoors unsupervised, take extra care when it comes to keeping your pets safely housed during Halloween. Many pets reportedly go missing during Halloween, and the commotion of trick-or-treaters going door to door can scare animals, causing them to run outside and potentially be hurt or lost. In addition to that, sadly, Halloween is also a time when people may be more likely to pull sick "pranks" and hurt animals, especially black cats. Keep animals safe by making sure they're indoors during the Halloween season, and take extra precautions on Halloween night. "Keep your pet in a separate room of the house, away from the front door, so they don’t attempt an escape or feel the need to protect their family from trick-or-treaters," advises Dr. Zabell. This will keep them calm if you'll be having guests or trick-or-treaters on the big night.

Don't Go Too Overboard On The Halloween Fun

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"Even though the rest of your family might be caught up in all the Halloween festivities, your pet still needs a routine that includes all of his or her usual activities," advises Dr. Zabell. Make sure that regardless of your Halloween party schedule, you're keeping pace with your animals' routine and not letting anything get too wild for them. Also, be mindful of your Hallween costume — masks can sometimes legit confuse animals (who have no idea why their beloved guardian would shield her face to the point of being unrecognizable), so if your pup or kitty seems confused, ditch the scary bits of the costume until you've left the house to avoid any anxiety on your animal's part.