Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe and Sane This Halloween

Halloween is so darned fun, for us humans, that is. Think about it from the perspective of your pets. The ridiculous costumes they are forced to wear, all those scary sights and sounds, the doorbell ringing over and over again. For our dogs and cats, Halloween can be downright ghoulish! Had they a say so in the matter, most of them would opt to ignore this holiday altogether! If celebration is a must in your household, consider the following tips to keep your pets safe and sane this Halloween season.

Your Pet’s Physical Well Being

Guard the candy bowl! Given the opportunity, most dogs will gladly gorge on chocolate, wrappers and all. Chocolate contains theobromine a substance chemically related to caffeine and capable of causing the “cocoa jitters.” The richer (darker) the chocolate, the more jittery your pup will be. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include restlessness, irritability, increased urination, muscle tremors, and sometimes even seizures. Vomiting and diarrhea are also commonplace following chocolate ingestion. If you suspect your dog(s) has raided the candy bowl, call your family veterinarian or local emergency clinic immediately. The sooner treatment is initiated, the better the chance for a good outcome. Based on the approximate weight of your candy thief and the type and amount of chocolate ingested, you will be advised whether or not your dog needs medical attention. Likely no big deal for the Great Dane who has downed some milk chocolate kisses. For the four pound Chihuahua, however, a few ounces of bittersweet chocolate could be a lethal dose.

If you welcome trick-or-treaters to your home, your front door will be opening and closing repeatedly. This translates into many opportunities for your dog or cat to escape into the dark of night when their familiar territory has become particularly spooky. Getting lost or running out in front of a moving vehicle are potentially disastrous holiday outcomes. My advice- don’t include your pets as part of your Halloween welcoming committee. Far safer to confine them behind closed doors.

Your Pet’s Emotional Well Being

Does your kitty hide under your bed every time someone new comes to your home? Does your dog’s job description include barking and protecting whenever a stranger (trick-or-treaters included) arrives at your front door? Think about how these poor animals must feel on Halloween night when that doorbell rings dozens of times within just a few hours. Talk about emotional exhaustion! Consider the following options to preserve their sanity:

  • Confine your pets behind closed doors, ideally in a sound-proof part of your home.
  • Provide trick-or-treaters with a “help yourself” candy bowl on your front walkway.
  • Board your pets elsewhere on Halloween night.
  • Turn off your house lights and skip the holiday altogether. (No guarantees your house won’t be egged the following day!)

Halloween costumes for pets certainly make for some giggles and terrific photo opportunities. But how do our pets really feel about being dressed in those silly outfits? I once made the mistake of hosting a Halloween pet costume contest via my blog. Leave it to my wonderful readers to set me straight. They let me know in no uncertain terms that our pets prefer to dress in their “birthday suits” for Halloween!

There is likely nothing your dog enjoys more than accompanying you for a walk around your neighborhood. Doing so on Halloween, however, may be a downright spooky experience for your best buddy. My bottom line advice- Halloween is a holiday for humans. Let’s leave our pets out of it!


Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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5 Comments on “Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe and Sane This Halloween

  1. Thanks for your tips Dr Nancy Kay. After being without a dog for25 years I got a sweet rescue Bichon in 1999….that first year he was a little excited and perturbed by the strange looking creatures coming to our door on Oct 31. In 2000 I tried your idea of putting a large candy bowl outside and we had a better Halloween night (the next day a kid in the neighborhood told me some kids took a whole bunch of candy lol). I lost that sweet boy in 2010, but now have 2 wonderful canine boys and I do not want to subject them to the horrors of halloween night and I’ll continue to do the candy bowl on the driveway, or total blackout. so far I have not received “tricks” like eggs or soaping, etc. but am willing to clean that up if my boys are safe and calm.

  2. Agreed. Years ago, I started staying on my front porch with the candy, to greet the Little Monsters. That way, my door wasn’t opening all the time, and I didn’t have to worry about escapees. Now I have a big cauldron with a fire inside, in my front yard, and dress as a witch; several friends come also dressed as witches, and scare the Monsters before we treat them. I get a couple hundred of them every year…
    Animals stay safely indoors. The boldest dog trick or treats au naturale to a few neighbors who had out dog biscuits. No need to forego the deadly festivities as long as you protect the animals safely :-)

  3. Dr Kay did mention chocolate, wrappers and all, but be prepared for much discarded chocolate, wrappers and other items discarded on the road.If you walk your dog later, especially at night, you may not even witness what they pick up and eat. They’re quick.

    I also place a gate at the front.
    thanks foe sharing this important info.

  4. Our front screen/storm door has an upper and a lower window/screen. For Halloween, we remove the top window/screen and use it as a Dutch door, so we can hand out the candy without the dogs escaping!

  5. I so agree. On Halloween we take the guys to the friends’ horse farm, away from all the craziness.