For many, Halloween is the chance to have fun, dress up in creative costumes, and go trick or treating. You might even take on some spooky crafts or if you’re brave enough, curl up for a scary movie marathon…
But, if you’re a dog owner, you’ll also be thinking about how your canine companion copes with it all – whether that’s joining in the festivities or trying to keep them calm amongst all door-knocking, food-dropping, and fireworks.
We’ve created a guide to a pawfect Halloween with your furry friend, complete with some top tips from the many dog-lovers here at Howden.
Puppy tricks or treats: what Halloween foods can dogs eat?
Like any festivity, food plays a key part in Halloween – though it’s mainly of the sugary variety! As well as all the chocolate and sweets from trick or treating, there’s also apple-bobbing, and of course, pumpkins. So, what’s safe and what isn’t?
Dogs can eat pumpkin, and in fact, it’s a recommended food for their diet. Pumpkin is a great source of fibre, iron, potassium, carotene and vitamin A, and can also aid doggy digestion. If you’re thinking about adding pumpkin to your dog’s diet or offering some as a snack, it is a good idea to check with your vet first to see if pumpkin is suitable for them.
Unsweetened pumpkin purée, plain canned or freshly baked pumpkin should all be fine for your dog to eat. The seeds are also edible, but vets highly recommended that you clean, peel, roast and then grind them before feeding to your dog. Keep the seeds away from smaller dogs, as they pose a choking hazard.
There are some pumpkin parts and products that aren’t safe for dogs, however. Avoid pumpkin blends and mixes such as pumpkin pie filling, as the added ingredients like nutmeg or cinnamon could make your dog ill.
Be careful when preparing the pumpkin, as you shouldn’t feed any of the stem or leaves to your dog. These are covered in prickly hairs that can irritate their mouth, throat and stomach. Make sure you remove all the pumpkin skin before feeding to your pooch. The skin can be a choking hazard, and risks gut obstruction if your dog swallows it.
Top tip: If you’re apple bobbing, you’ll be happy to know that small pieces of apple are a great addition to your dog’s diet, and can actually help freshen their breath!
Common Halloween foods that are dangerous for dogs include:
Chocolate – it contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. This is a well-known fact, but with chocolate dropped or smeared around your home on Halloween, keep an extra close eye on what your pooch is up to!
Grapes and raisins – these are a great healthy Halloween option for kids but can lead to kidney failure in dogs. As above, be vigilant if you’ve got your dog around these foods.
Onions and garlic – not only is garlic a vampire-repellent, it’s not good for dogs either! These can damage a dog’s red blood cells and cause anaemia.
Xylitol – an artificial sweetener often found in sugar-free gum and some peanut butters, which is actually toxic to dogs! It can lead to rapid insulin release, causing hypoglycaemia.
Remember to consult your vet before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet. What works well for one pooch, might not be suitable for another, especially if they have specific health conditions or dietary requirements. Always read labels carefully and if you’re not sure about an ingredient, don’t risk it!
Paws and claws: dressing your dog up for Halloween
Halloween is probably the biggest night of the year for costumes, with children and adults alike having fun dressing up as witches, werewolves, ghosts and ghouls! Many of us enjoy dressing up our pups in cute costumes, and many pups enjoy this too.
The key here is to make sure your pet is happy with playing dress up.
Before the big day, remove the costume from its packaging and leave it somewhere that has your scent, so it will smell familiar. After this, you can leave the costume somewhere for your dog to approach and sniff of their own free will.
Over several days, you can help your dog adjust to the costume by laying it across their back, and eventually dressing them up only when their tail is wagging, and their eyes are bright. Watch them for any signs of discomfort such as pinned back ears or heavy panting and remove the costume after a short period of time. If you find your dog refuses to move, that’s a clear sign that they aren’t happy.
Alternatively, some of us here at Howden have dogs who are pretty proud of their new attire, easily spotted by the strut. If they like it, ensure the costume doesn’t impair their normal movements by being too tight or too loose. Keep their mouth, eyes, ears, and whiskers uncovered, and avoid flammable materials and chewable parts.
Avoid a Howl-oween!
For some sensitive dogs, the horrors of Halloween can feel very threatening: unexpected knocks at the door, unusual outfits, lots of people and loud fireworks. It’s all confusing and frightening for a pup!
But there’s lots you can do to help your stay feel safe and calm.
- Walk your dog before dark, and if you can’t get out during the daylight, try other ways to expend some energy, such as playtime.
- Stick to your dog’s routine and pre-empt knocks at the door by preparing lots of things to keep your dog busy, such as a long-lasting chew.
- Separate your dog from the entrance to your home, by keeping them upstairs or with a stairgate, if that suits them better.
- Leave a bowl of sweets out with a polite sign asking people to take their share without knocking or ringing the doorbell, because you have a nervous dog.
- Make sure your dog has a safe space to go if they’re worried. It could be their bed or crate but keep it away from windows or doors.
- Reward good behaviour, such as calmness, settling and responding to cues. Try not to tell them off, as this can make their agitation worse. Remember, your dog is reacting to very different experiences than what they’re used to in an evening.
Share your photos!
Here at Howden, we love our pets, and we know how much you love yours too. From our K9 hydration stations, pet insurance advice and even the ‘pet pawtraits’ photoshoots currently underway in many of our branches, we’re always catering to our clients and their canines! Speak to your local branch about their upcoming plans, as well as any questions you have about pet insurance.
We would love to see how you celebrate Halloween with your pets, whether that’s dressing up or getting crafty. Send us your photos on social media tagging #HowdenHalloween!
Sources: Blue Cross, Battersea