Veterinary Medical Center

Eight Tips for a Scare-free Howl-o-ween

Keeping Fido and Fluffy safe this Halloween doesn’t have to be tricky. In fact, it’s more of a treat!

The experts at Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center are here to help pet owners navigate this spooky holiday with eight essential tips for a Halloween that’s all fun and no fright!

  1. Keep the candy and human treats out of paw’s reach 

    Let’s start with a simple but vital rule: Candy is for humans, not pets! Remember to keep candy, especially chocolate and candy containing xylitol (a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies and gum), away from your pets. 

    Dr. Missy Matusicky, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine, cautions pet owners not to let their pets overindulge because that can cause vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis. 

  2. Cut up bags and wrappers before you throw them away 

    dog in cape holding jack o lantern halloween tote in mouth

    Candy wrappers can cause obstructions. Avoid a stressful visit to the emergency room by making sure all wrappers and bags are in a securely closed trash can. 

    “Animals can suffocate when they stick their head in an empty bag, depending on the size of the dog and the size of an empty bag,” Dr. Matusicky said. “Cutting up bags and wrappers can prevent suffocation. Similar to how people cut six-pack plastic rings for wildlife animals you should cut snack bags to protect pets.”

  3. Beware of marijuana mishaps 

    At this time of year, Ohio State’s Emergency and Critical Care service sees many pets who have accidentally ingested baked goods, candy and other edibles infused with marijuana. Keep cannabis products well out of the reach of your pets.  If your pet ingests a toxin, quick action is crucial. Immediately contact your emergency veterinary hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline (1-888-426-4435) for life-saving information to treat your pet. 

  4. Create comfort zones to ‘hide’ and seek from spooks 

    Halloween and the night of trick-or-treating can be stressful and frightening for pets. With doors opening and closing, loud noises and strangers in peculiar costumes, it can be quite bewildering for pets. 

    “We can look at our dog’s body language to tell if they are stressed or afraid. Look out for low shoulders, low head, tucked tail, panting if it’s not hot, pacing and other behavior changes,” said Dr. Leanne Lilly, a veterinary behaviorist at Ohio State. “During Trick-or-Treat, you can keep pets calm by giving them a food puzzle toy and playing classical music in a space they find safe.”

    Letting your dog relax in their crate in a safe room, away from the front door, is a good option. You can even talk to your veterinarian about possible medications for anxiety to help them relax if they are prone to being very anxious. 

    For your feline friends, indoors is the best place to be during Halloween, especially for black cats who might be targets of pranks. Ohio State’s emergency room tends to see an influx of injured black cats around Halloween, as well as cats coming in who have ingested holiday decorations like strings, sparkly tinsel or lights. Ideally, cats should relax in a room away from the front door. 

    Overall, experts at Ohio State agree that the safest and least stressful place for your pet during the Halloween festivities is indoors. 

  5. ‘Hands-Off on Halloween’ Rule

    When taking your kids out to trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, remind them not to pet any dogs, even if they know the dog. Their costume may spook the dog, or the dog might be on heightened alert or feeling anxious and stressed from all of the festivities that evening.“ Halloween poses a major bite risk for people,” Dr. Matusicky said. “People are dressed funny, they smell funny, and they are making loud noises. Even if the dog knows someone, if they're dressed oddly and reach for the dog, the dog may be fearful and bite. Or, the dog could back out of their collar and run off.”  

  6. Costume Comfort Check

    If you choose to dress your pet up for Halloween, no matter how cute their costume is, make sure their costume fits properly and doesn’t interfere with their movement, eating, drinking, breathing or well-being.

    “A lot of dogs don’t like costumes, no matter how cute they may seem to us,” Dr. Lilly said. “If your dog is pawing at the costume or doesn’t move, then the costume has become an added stressor.”

    If your pet doesn’t seem relaxed while wearing their costume, try taking it off for a bit. Always supervise your pet while they are wearing their costume because loose costume parts might cause choking, internal injury or illness.

  7. Keep furry friends safe from fire

    black cat sitting in front of pumpkins

    Keep sparklers, lit candles, jack-o-lanterns, glow sticks, batteries, electrical cords and other Halloween decorations out of reach of pets. Pets can easily chew on electrical cords, ingest batteries, or knock over a candle. Supervise pets when they are near these hazards. 

  8. Pets wearing ID tags and checking their microchip info 

    If your pet is enjoying their costume, no matter what it is, make sure they wear a collar with an ID tag that has your full name and phone number. That tag can be a lifesaver if your pet goes missing. It’s also a great time to check that your pet is microchipped and that the microchip number is up to date and associated with your most recent contact information like name, phone number and address. 

Emergency services and urgent care are available

In case an accident does happen despite taking precautions, Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center is available for companion animal, farm animal and equine emergencies. VMC Dublin Urgent Care is open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, and holidays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

If your animal needs emergency treatment, please call 614-292-3551 (for dogs and cats) or 614-292-6661 (for horses and farm animals).