The spookiest night of the year is almost here. Halloween is a fun holiday—for two legs– but this haunted affair can be a disaster for your four legged companions. You know that the scary-looking rowdy crowds who ring your doorbell are just the neighborhood children, but your dog doesn’t. Your dog may be a happy, friendly companion on most occasions, but trick-or-treaters in strange garb can spook him and cause him to dart out when you open the door Stress from a constantly ringing doorbell, knocks at the door, and weird looking strangers at the door create anxiety or fear for most dogs Halloween is the second most common night for dogs to go missing (following the Fourth of July.), so it is important that your dog’s tags are current, with proper identification, just in case there is an inadvertent escape. Please take proper precautions to keep your dog safe on Halloween, as a bite or a missing dog can quickly ruin everyone’s fun.

NEVER leave your dog (or cat) out in the yard. We discourage this any time of year, but especially at Halloween, when pranksters sometimes decide it would be fun to tease an unsupervised animal. Every year there are too many reports of animals that have been terrorized, stolen or even killed. Make a cozy retreat for your dog in a separate room during trick-or-treat hours. Provide a blanket, a favorite toy or two, and play soft music or leave a radio or television on to muffle the holiday noises.

Resist the idea of letting the family dog accompany the kids on their door-to-door begging. Children may have a difficult time handling a pet, and he could get loose, especially if spooked by the strange sights and sounds. Spooky costumes and scary activities can unnerve even the most placid dogs.

Trick or treat candies are not for pets. Candy in general is loaded with sugar and fat, which can lead to serious GI issues and pancreatitis, and all forms of chocolate can be dangerous, even lethal for dogs. Chocolate contains a caffeine-like stimulant substance that, when ingested by your pet, can cause serious problems. ASPCA toxicologists state “Halloween is to veterinarians what April 15 is to accountants. Calls about pets who have become ill after eating candy spike their highest around Halloween.”

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is showing up in all kinds of products, including sugar-free candy, gum, and mints. It is also found in many other products including some brands of peanut butter, so beware. Even small amounts of Xylitol are toxic to dogs.

Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, which can also attract your dog. If your dog eats foil or cellophane candy wrappers, the result can be a life threatening bowel obstruction requiring surgery.

Some people hand out those little boxes of raisins or small bags of trail mix containing raisins, instead of candy. Unfortunately, raisins are toxic to dogs and ingestion of just a few can potentially cause kidney failure. Chocolate covered raisins pose an even bigger risk.

Lighted candles and jack-o-lanterns should be kept out of reach, since dogs (and cats) could easily knock over a candle or pumpkin, causing burn injuries or even a fire.

Dogs will chew just about anything, and streamers and fake spider webs may cause intestinal blockages if ingested, and electrical cords, if chewed, can damage your pet’s mouth, or deliver a potentially deadly electrical shock.

Costumes can definitely be hazardous to your pet’s health, especially when their range of motion, vision or hearing is restricted by a costume, and buttons, bows and other small accessories can be pulled off and choked on or swallowed. If you dress up your dog, be aware of the possible problems.

This is a good time to discuss with your children or young friends the importance of showing respect toward animals. Encourage them to tell you if they see anyone trying to antagonize an animal. A child who is abusive to animals needs professional help.

Give your dog a haven where he can feel, safe, comfortable, and relaxed—tucked away from any Halloween activities so that you can enjoy the ghoulish and ghosties, long legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night. HAPPY HOWL-O-WEEN!