While Halloween is fun for trick or treaters, it can be a scary and dangerous time for pets and farm animals.
"Loud noises can cause animals to panic putting both pets and children in danger," says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of Community Relations for the BC SPCA. Farm animals are at risk, too. Dogs or cats could dart into traffic or jump through windows, while frightened farm animals could run into barbed-wire fences or other obstructions. Dogs can also act out of character at the sight of strangers in costumes coming to your door.
Keep your pet inside
Prevent your pets from escaping or confronting trick or treaters by keeping them in a quiet room. Turn on a radio or TV to help suppress outside sounds and knocks at the door. You may consider disabling your doorbell for the night if your dog is the type that gets excited whenever it rings. Now is also a good time to make sure your pet has identification - a tag and a tattoo or microchip - in case your pet gets lost. Cats need identification too – even indoor cats -- in case they bolt from fright. If your cat goes outdoors, consider keeping your cat indoors during the Halloween season.
Don't feed candy and chocolate to pets
"Any sudden diet change will cause stomach upset in your animal," says Dr. Jamie Lawson, BC SPCA chief animal health officer. "Feeding animals candy can lead to health problems such as diabetes or obesity," says Lawson, "and chocolate is especially dangerous because it naturally contains theobromine, an ingredient which is toxic to cats and dogs."
Loud bangs panic some animals
Exploding fireworks can affect pets in varying degrees. Some dogs will howl, while others might cower and whine. "I've seen cases where a dog has bolted in fear right through a screen door. The dog was gone for days just because of a loud bang," says Dr. Dave Sedgman, veterinarian with Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops. "In extreme cases animals will try to dig into a hardwood floor or even jump through a plate glass window in fear." For more information, review our fact sheet on reducing anxiousness in dogs.
It may seem counter-intuitive but be careful not to react in a consoling manner to your pets when there are loud noises.
Saying things such as "it's OK" or "don't be scared" in a soft, sympathetic voice will actually reward the fearful behaviour and make your dog think you are frightened, too.
Instead, use a happy, upbeat and high pitch tone of voice or be very matter-of-fact when your dog is showing fear. Sometimes this is enough to change the emotional state of your dog. Distracting your dog with toys or play, and turning on a radio or television will also help focus your dog on other things. Try not to show surprise or fear at fireworks yourself. Dogs take their cues from you, so if you are relaxed and confident they will be less anxious.
Keep pets in the house
On Halloween night, leave your dog at home while trick or treating; bring dogs and cats indoors; and set off legal fireworks in areas away from pets and farm animals. In addition, dressing your dog in a costume inhibits his ability to communicate to other dogs. In a chance meeting with another dog, your dog may give off signals that inadvertently lead to an aggressive confrontation. Likewise dogs may react out of character when they encounter people in costumes – kids and adults – particularly fearful dogs.
By thinking about the animals, Halloween will be a safer and stress-free occasion, as well as fun for kids. Thank you!