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black dog with a costume that has a black cat sewn on the back

This Halloween may look a little different for many. But even with less trick-or-treating and pandemic partying for people it can still be scary for pets.

Watch the sweets

For those of us staying socially distanced and not out and about this Halloween, we may still use this particular holiday as an excuse to load up on candy or, if celebrating Dia de Los Muertos, brew up some special hot chocolate. The ASPCA has helpful guidance on the dangers that may lurk in these treats:

“Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for cats and dogs, and sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can cause serious problems in pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.”

Why are dark or baking chocolates particularly dangerous? It’s due to a chemical called theobromine. In the VCA Hospital’s informative “Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs,” the authors explain that theobromine “is the predominant toxin in chocolate and is very similar to caffeine.” Because dogs cannot metabolize theobromine (or caffeine) as well as people they are sensitive to the chemical’s effects. The amount of theobromine varies in chocolate, as the authors further explain: “Baking chocolate and gourmet dark chocolate are highly concentrated and contain 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce.”

Take care with the costumes

While we may love the idea of dressing our pets up in costumes (so cute), our pets may beg to differ. Many of our doggie daycare guests love dressing up and it shows (see our cover model, Casey, above) but, unless your pet enjoys being embellished, maybe skip the costume. If your dog’s head is down, ears are back, is turning away or frozen, eyes are open wide, has a single paw raised, or has flattened to the ground, these could be some of the signs they do not want to wear that costume. But there are still options for fun (and Instagram-worthy photos). Your Dog’s Friend, a non-profit in Maryland, inspired these ideas:

  • Festive, seasonal collars or bandanas are a fun way to dress up your dog.
  • Create a Halloween scene by gathering your jack-o-lanterns, fake spiderwebs, and scarecrow. Now, pose your dog in front of your devilishly adorable display.
  • Speaking of posing, create a “fake costume” by attaching bat wings to a wall (or for those with chalkboard walls drawing them on) and positioning your dog in front of wings.It’s all about the photo, right? For serious dog and wall wings inspiration, check out Kelly Monatague Art.

If your dog or cat is comfortable with a costume, just be sure there are no choking hazards and it doesn’t impede your pet’s sight, ability to safely move about, breathe, bark, or meow.

Monitor the stress and the pets

If you do have human ghosts and goblins visiting you this year, make sure your pet isn’t stressed by all of the activity. Set them up comfortably in a separate room while activity is heightened and, importantly, even if they’re a social pet who loves the commotion, make sure they have proper identification (collar with tag, microchip) in case they slip out while doors are open.