Pookie the Pekingese is neighborhood royalty, so when the doorbell starts ringing on October 31, he’s sure one of his many adoring fans has come to play, or to deliver a box full of treats and toys. But, when the door is opened and he sees a skeleton and a four-foot-tall black cat, Pookie is petrified, starts barking, and runs away.

Pookie is typically a social little dog, whose happy-go-lucky spirit always charms the staff at Town and Country Animal Hospital. However, his first Halloween is throwing him for a loop, and his evening unfolds like a horror story of holiday pet hazards.

Terrifying taste in decor—Halloween decorations and pets

When Pookie emerges from hiding, he stumbles through a tangle of artificial spider webbing, and spies a shrunken head on the hearth. As he approaches for a careful sniff, the eyes flicker wildly, and the head shrieks loudly. The little dog scrambles to the den, tripping over a string of twinkle lights, and dragging them in his wake.

Halloween decorations practically glow in the dark with pet dangers. Restrict your pet’s access to decorated areas with baby gates or closed doors. The most alarming accessories include:

  • Spider webs — Webs can cause pets to become trapped, or tangled, or to choke.
  • Small toys — Play or ingestion may lead to choking, or intestinal blockage.
  • String lights — Wires and bulbs make appealing chew toys. 
  • Motion-sensing toys — Frightening, unpredictable movements may discourage pets from accessing their resources (e.g., food, water, litter box).
  • Candles — Curious paws can get burned, or start a fire.

Horrifying taste in clothing—pet costume calamities

In the den, Pookie finds the children wearing funny outfits, which they’ve been wearing in bits and pieces for the last week. They call him sweetly, and reveal a Pekingese-sized disguise meant for him. One child holds him, while the other dresses him as a pirate.

While some pets enjoy wearing costumes, others become anxious and stressed. Garments are unnatural and can make pets claustrophobic—a feeling that is compounded by poor fit and unnecessary embellishments. Check your pet’s costume to ensure proper fit, and remove any small accessories or hanging ties. 

Fortunately, Pookie’s owner recognizes his anxious body language. His right eye is concealed by a swashbuckler’s eye patch, but the left is wide open, and wild with panic. After the kids take a selfie, they remove the costume, for safety and comfort. Pookie gives a sigh of relief and a hearty shake-off, and trots to the foyer, where the doorbell is ringing again.

Sugar shock—candy ingestion and pets

The children race Pookie to the door, and their wild flailing sends tiny, colorful prizes to the floor. Pookie stops to investigate an unwrapped jawbreaker. Hearing his owner’s footsteps approach, he hurriedly grabs the candy, and begins to choke.

Candy’s sweet smell, bright colors, and shiny wrapping attracts all species. Unfortunately, pets can suffer far worse consequences than a few cavities. Keep all candy out of your pet’s reach, to prevent choking, and these additional dangers:

  • Xylitol poisoning This sugar substitute, found in many snacks and sugar-free candy, causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, and potential liver failure.
  • Toxin ingestion Raisins, currants, and macadamia nuts, all toxic to pets, may be found in fillings.
  • Pancreatitis — Unusual foods and sugary sweets can inflame the pancreas.
  • Intestinal blockage — Candy wrappers, ribbon, and string can become trapped in the stomach or intestine, requiring surgical removal.

Pookie’s owner reacts quickly, and performs a small dog Heimlich maneuver, successfully dislodging the candy. Pookie sighs, relieved.

Haunted house—runaway pets

Pookie is resting on the stairs as a group of costumed friends—former friends, if you ask the disgruntled Pekingese—are welcomed inside. One guest, who has a square green forehead and bolts in the neck, calls Pookie’s name and lumbers close to the dog. Pookie, terrified, darts down the stairs and slips out the open front door, running free into the night.

Halloween is not a time to test your pet’s obedience or socialization. Costumes, decorations, and spooky sounds can elicit panic in the boldest pets. Confine your pet to a quiet room or crate where they can relax during the festivities. If your pet is the nervous type, ask our Town and Country Animal Hospital veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication. 

Pookie is fortunate. A neighbor finds him hiding in their pumpkin patch, checks his collar tags, and returns him home. Ensure your pet wears up-to-date identification this Halloween, and that their microchip is registered. 

Chocolate-dipped disaster—chocolate toxicity in pets

Pookie’s owner had hidden four bags of her favorite candy bars on the pantry floor inside an old protein shake box. She thought no one would find them there, but someone doesand his peanut-butter scented wrinkles give him away.

Chocolate is one of the most common toxicities in pets. Ingestion can cause dangerous arrhythmias, muscle tremors, seizures, coma, and death. Dark, bitter, and baking chocolate are especially dangerous, because of their high theobromine and caffeine concentration.

Because Pookie’s fun-sized misadventure occurred after hours, his owner immediately called the ASPCA Animal Poison Control. Fortunately, all the wrappers were accounted for, and Pookie had not consumed a toxic level, so the veterinarian recommended inducing vomiting at home. Five minutes later, Pookie’s contraband chocolate had returned all over his owner’s shoes, but both owner and dog were relieved—and in full agreement about skipping Halloween next year.

Do you have additional questions about keeping your pet safe this Halloween? Don’t be a scaredy-catcontact Town and Country Animal Hospital. We are here to help pets like Pooky, who manage to find trouble, despite their owners’ best efforts.