How to Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween

A golden retriever running through dry leaves on a road surrounded by colorful trees.

With more than $500 million spent by Americans on pet costumes every year, having fun with our pets certainly ranks near the top of the Halloween list. But Halloween also presents unique challenges like dangerous foods and new situations that may be scary to your dog. Plus, animal shelters see an uptick in lost dog reports and stray pet intakes the following day. Keep Halloween fun and safe for everyone with simple tips and precautions.

A puppy sitting in a pumpkin surrounded by dry leaves

Use Dog-Friendly Halloween Decorations

Halloween decorations may contain plastic pieces, batteries, or other materials that are dangerous to dogs if swallowed. Fake cobwebs, glowsticks, string lights, tinsel, and balloons are also risky for pets. Natural decorations—gourds, pumpkins, and corn stalks—can cause stomach upset or an intestinal blockage if ingested by a curious canine, and carved pumpkins that have been sitting on the railing for a few days can harbor bacteria or mold that may make your dog ill. Lit candles, whether in a Jack o’ lantern or on the table, carry the risk of accidents or burns. Skip dangerous materials or keep them completely out of reach. 

A brown and white dog laying inside a dog crate in a home

Trick-or-Treating for Dogs

Halloween brings plenty of visitors to your dog—some may love dogs, but others may fear them. From your dog’s perspective, costumes, masks, crowds of people, and new or loud noises can be stressful and, if startled, could cause them to bolt out the door or be reactive. 

Even if you’re sure your dog will be friendly to every visitor, it’s a good idea to keep your dog safely contained in its crate or another room. This gives your dog a quiet, safe space to relax, preventing complications.

If you plan to bring your dog trick-or-treating keep in mind that not everyone will want your dog on their property. It’s a good rule of thumb to stay with your dog on the sidewalk while your kids knock on doors—unless you know the homeowners well. Skip haunted houses, interact with other dogs, and make sure your dog is leash-trained and well-socialized

Tip: Opt for a canine-themed Halloween parade or party for your dog; it’s a safer alternative than trick-or-treating for dogs that are timid or easily spooked.

A yellow lab on a reflective leash and collar

Should Dogs Wear Halloween Costumes?

While adorable, dog costumes are not subjected to federal regulations and aren’t tested for safety, so be cautious and supervise your dog while they’re in costume. Dog costumes can cause entanglement, strangulation, lack of mobility, and parts he can chew or ingest, which can cause a blockage. 

Be mindful of body language or signs your dog isn’t enjoying their costume—a tucked tail, whale-eyed looks, lip licking, or panting—and remove it if they seem uncomfortable or stressed out. Choose costumes that allow for plenty of mobility, including the ability to eat, drink, and relieve themselves. A bowtie or bandana can be a great costume for nervous dogs.

Tip: If you’re dressing up your dog, leave room for a light-up or reflective collar (with proper ID) to ensure they’re safely seen.

A small child and a dog standing at a window

No Tricks in Their Treats

You’ve probably heard that chocolate can be deadly if consumed by your dog—but chocolate isn’t the only culprit; other sweeteners like xylitol can have the same toxic effects, even in small quantities. Here are some rules to keep in mind:

  • Always keep chocolate, candies, brownies, cookies, cakes, raisins, grapes, and any products containing Xylitol in high cabinets that your dog cannot reach.
  • If your dog loves peanut butter, always double-check the ingredients list for Xylitol.
  • Remind any children in the home that these items are dangerous for your dog.
  • Be extra vigilant around the holidays.
  • Crate your dog when you’re gone to keep them from eating things they shouldn’t.
  • Be mindful that poisoning symptoms may not be immediately apparent, it can take 6-12 for the onset of symptoms from chocolate poisoning.

Tip: Even dog-safe “people foods” like apples can upset your dog’s stomach if they over-indulge—though it can be tempting, don’t overfeed.

Symptoms That Require Immediate Medical Attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Heavy panting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Staggering
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

If your dog is small or ingests an unknown quantity of chocolate, packaging, xylitol, raisins, or grapes—take them to the vet immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear.

If you know exactly how much your dog ate, contact your veterinarian. After calculating the amount of toxin ingested relative to your dog’s weight, the vet will likely recommend either a watch-and-wait approach or immediate emergency treatment.

When in doubt, always have your dog checked out by your veterinarian, or call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline, toll-free at (888) 426-4435 for immediate answers.