Howl-Oween Safety

dog wearing Halloween costume with a bowl

Cobweb covered doorways, porches lined with glowing pumpkins, and miniature visitors draped in white sheets can only mean one thing: Halloween is right around the corner. With the holiday rapidly approaching, it is time to start planning your favorite traditions. In addition to the pumpkin carving and costume parties, keeping your pets safe during Halloween is an importation tradition to uphold.

Whether they are your child’s faithful trick-or-treating companion, or the Toto to your Dorothy costume from the Wizard of Oz, pets can be an integral part of your Halloween celebrations. “It is more than okay to dress your pet up in a Halloween costume, as long as the costume fits them appropriately and isn’t too tight,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you can easily slip two fingers underneath whatever bands are in the costume and to not leave the costume on them when they are unsupervised.” Just keep in mind that while a costume may be cute and funny to you, your pet may disagree.

When your pet is accompanying you on your trick-or-treating route, or helping to welcome your sweet-toothed visitors, make sure they are constantly under close supervision and on a leash. “There is definitely some mischief that goes on during Halloween, and it is highly recommended that you keep your pets inside the house,” said Stickney. “If they are indoor/outdoor animals, this is the night to keep them indoors.”

Stickney also recommends that outdoor-only pets be kept in a safe and secure location, such as a fenced-in backyard with the lights on, so you can routinely monitor their whereabouts. People with black cats should be extra certain to keep them safe and indoors, as they are, unfortunately, the target for many pranks on Halloween night.

You should also make sure that your pet has proper identification, such as a microchip or a collar with detailed contact information, to keep them safe on Halloween. It isn’t unusual for pets to slip through the frequently opened front door, and if spooked by noisy groups of small goblins, run too far to find their way back.  If Scruffy is helping you greet trick-or-treaters at the door, make sure he is comfortable with the intrusion of strangers. Some animals can become overwhelmed with all of the chaos, and growl or even snap at the overzealous guests.

There is nothing like an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital to spoil your Halloween fun, so be certain to keep the candy bowl as far away from your pet as possible. “Candy, especially dark chocolate, is extremely toxic to dogs,” said Stickney. “If they do get a hold of it, call your veterinarian immediately and tell them what exactly they ate and how much of it they consumed.” There are plenty of safe, pet-approved treats to give them other than the leftover Kit-Kat bars they keep eyeing.

There are a few tips for decorating your haunted house as well. “One thing to potentially watch out for are any decorations with streamers or artificial spider webs,” said Stickney. “If cats try to catch and eat these, they could contract a linear foreign body which would require emergency surgery to remove.” Keeping open flames, like a candle inside a carved pumpkin, out of reach is recommended as well. Curious puppies or kittens can easily knock them over, getting burned or inadvertently setting your house on fire. Opt for a battery-operated candle instead.

Parents take extra precautions so that their children’s Halloween experience is safe and enjoyable, but it is important to extend the same care to your beloved pets. As long as you follow these general safety guidelines, Scruffy and Fluffy are sure to be in for a howlin’ good Halloween.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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