Halloween tips for safer pets

Sometimes Halloween makes me grumpy. It’s not that I’m a big spoilsport, but pets can react so negatively to the doorbell ringing all night and the numbers of strangers coming around that opening your door to trick-or-treaters almost seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

If your pets get stressed out, too, when Halloween rolls around, try to limit their exposure to the festivities. Keep your pets in another room with the door safely closed. That way, trick-or-treaters are safe from your otherwise mellow dog who decides that he needs to protect your home from small entities in Spongebob Squarepants costumes.

Keep some soothing music on, something like Mozart, and give them plenty of toys. Perhaps a family member who is not too excited about Halloween would volunteer to stay with the pets.

A bottle of Rescue Remedy is always good to have on hand for your pets, but it is rarely more helpful than on Halloween. Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essences that work to emotionally soothe stressed animals, and drops can be applied to tongue, gums, top of the nose or ears. It also comes in a spray bottle if you think your pet would prefer that. Put some in the animal’s water for a couple days before and after. It is inexpensive and can be purchased at most health food or vitamin stores in the Mid-Valley, or at Fred Meyer in both Corvallis and Albany. Apply it every 10 minutes for the most traumatized animals, or every hour or so during the peak of the trick-or-treating time.

Your pets have a specific reaction to the doorbell that they associate with company, and you don’t need to confuse them by having it ring all night. Consider turning off the doorbell and buying one of those scary Halloween door knockers that makes a sound when people approach, or something that chimes a different, softer tone from your regular bell. You may have to stick closer to the door to hear approaching kids, but your pets will not be subjected to the doorbell ringing and are less likely to react by barking or running. Or, dress up and stand outside your door with the candy.

Some other Halloween tips will help you and your pets enjoy the holiday safely:

  • The old warning about keeping your black cats inside at Halloween should be extended to all domestic animals. In this area, we don’t experience a lot of trouble with animal mutilation on Halloween – but a much more real danger is that your companion will be hit by a car or scared, hit or kicked by bullies out roaming on the holiday evening.
  • Even if your pets are comfortably set up in another room with the door closed, odds are that someone in the Mid-Valley will still lose their animal on Halloween. Cats are especially likely to dart outside as the door opens. Make sure your pets have visible identification and, preferably, are microchipped as well. That dramatically increases your odds of finding your cat or dog safe and sound.
  • Eliminate candles, even in pumpkins. Animals can jump up to where the flames are and knock them over or burn themselves if they get too curious. It’s very easy to find decorations that use electric bulbs.
  • Keep your Halloween candy under lock and key. Chocolate is poisonous to our pets, and should not be any place that your pets can reach. Bowls of Halloween candy pose a particular attraction to dogs, so store it up high and don’t leave any candy unattended. Children who return from trick-or-treating should also keep their stashes safe from household critters by storing candy in a Rubbermaid or other storage container with a securely fastening lid.
  • Don’t be surprised if you dress up and your pet reacts negatively. You look weird to your companion animal. Keep big hats or head coverings off until you’re ready to head out the door.
  • Resist the urge to dress up your pet. Very few enjoy it. If yours is one that does like to get into the holiday spirit, make sure there are no strings that can slip and cause choking, no parts of the costume that can be chewed off, and no restriction of movement. Supervise any costumed pet closely. I suggest that you purchase a new holiday collar for your pet and leave it at that. Be sure that new collar has a current ID tag hanging from it, too.