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Halloween can be dangerous for your dog—here's what to do

Protect your pooch, whether you’re trick-or-treating or staying in.

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Based on aesthetics alone, there is no better time to own a dog than around Halloween, if for no other reason than the chance to outfit them in the cutest costumes.

But Halloween can also be dangerous for dogs. Easily accessible candy, lit candles in Jack-o-Lanterns, and even ill-fitting costumes are all potential hazards for your pooch. Don’t fret: Take these actions, recommended by experts, so that a spooky and safe time is had by all.

Keep them away from the candy bowl

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Keep your dog out of the candy bowl at all costs.

You probably already know this, but it bears repeating: Chocolate is toxic for dogs. That’s because it contains caffeine and theobromine (a chemical that’s similar to caffeine). Dogs can’t metabolize these substances as well as humans, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, so ingesting anything that contains them could be fatal. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine and caffeine are present.

Some signs of theobromine poisoning in pets include excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, a racing heart rate, and frequent urination. If your dog gets into your Halloween chocolate, and starts exhibiting those signs, call the vet right away.

If you’re giving out or receiving sugar-free candy or gum instead of chocolate, make sure your dog can’t get into that supply, either. “Sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can cause serious problems in pets,” says Hyunmin Kim, DVM, veterinary staff manager, at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Xylitol is toxic for dogs because it triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas, which can cause hypoglycemia, liver failure, and seizures if left untreated.

Make sure the Jack-O-Lantern is out of reach

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Jack-o-Lanterns are fun to look at, but not ideal for your pooch to snack on.

Keep your carved pumpkins on a high ledge that your dog can’t reach, or on a porch your dog doesn’t have access to. “While a carved jack-o-lantern certainly is festive, pets can easily knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire,” says Kim. Even safer (for pets and humans alike) is to get a battery-powered candle instead. The ones that flicker mimic the real thing, minus the fire hazard.

You’ll also want to make sure your dog doesn’t get its paws—and teeth—on the Jack-O-Lantern’s own gaping grin, or any other decorative fall veggies such as gourds or corn. “Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered relatively nontoxic, but can produce stomach discomfort in pets who nibble on them,” says Kim.

Get them a costume they like wearing

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Make sure dog likes being in their costume (almost) as much as you like seeing them in it.

Yes, forcing your pooch into a Baby Shark or Harry Potter costume is a great way to achieve maximum holiday adorableness. But, according to Kim, costumes can cause “undue stress” in some pets, particularly if they are already on the anxious side. Because of this, the ASPCA discourages putting your pet in a costume unless you know they won’t mind it.

There are a few ways to ensure your pet feels good in their costume. Try on the costume (or a few of them) before Halloween and have your dog model it for you so you can see how they look and how they handle it. “If he or she seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting your pet wear his or her ‘birthday suit’ or don a festive bandana instead,” says Kim.

If you decide to go forward with the costume, make sure it doesn’t have any small, dangling, or easy-to-chew-off pieces that could become a choking hazard. You’ll also want to observe at your dog’s mobility in the ensemble. “Make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight, or ability to breathe or bark,” says Kim. “Ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.”

Keep them close, whether you’re trick-or-treating or staying home

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Keep your dog in a cozy place when trick-or-treaters come by.

Including your pet in Halloween festivities can be a lot of fun. But if you take them out while trick-or-treating with the kids, ensuring their collar and ID tag are up-to-date and fully visible is non-negotiable. With all the excitement going on, there’s no telling what they might get lost or caught up in. “A collar with ID tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver for a lost pet,” says Kim.

If you stay in with your pet to greet trick or treaters, Kim has some safety advice for you, too. “All but the most social dogs should be kept in a separate room away from the front door as too many strangers can often be scary and stressful for them,” she says. Not to mention, some trick-or-treaters may be afraid of dogs, no matter how friendly or sweet yours is. If you don’t pen up your pet, when you open the door for guests, make sure your dog doesn’t dart outside. If your dog gets nervous (or bark-happy) from excessive doorbell rings and knocks, Kim suggests leaving a bowl of candy outside for the trick-or-treaters with a note requesting they not ring the bell. Sure, you’ll have to trust guests to take your advice to “just take one,” but your dog will be safe and happy.

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