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5 tips to ensure Halloween isn’t a nightmare for pets

Halloween has grown in popularity in recent years, with the National Retail Federation estimating that more than 175 million Americans will celebrate Halloween in 2018 and spend $9 billion on the holiday. But while it may be a fun holiday for trick-or-treaters and party-goers, it’s not always fun and games for pets.

As a pet sitter, you will likely have pet-sitting assignments to complete this Halloween or in the days leading up to it—or perhaps you plan to celebrate Halloween with your own pets. There are some tips you should keep in mind—and also share with clients—to ensure it doesn’t become a spooky experience for your furry friends.

1. Make sure dressing up isn’t a scary occasion. Pet costumes are an increasingly popular item at Halloween and throughout the year, with 18 percent of Halloween celebrants planning to dress pets in costumes, up from 16 percent in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. You may see a lot of pumpkins, hot dogs and bumblebees running around this year, since those are the top pet Halloween costume choices, the Federation says.

While dressing a pet up may provide a good photo opportunity—for a pet owner or for you to have a cute update to send to a client—remember that many pets do not like costumes, so don’t force it.

If a pet does like dressing up, safety and comfort are the first things to consider when choosing the pet’s costume. If the costume constricts movement, blocks vision or has multiple parts that could easily be chewed off, then it is not a good choice. Also, be sure to supervise pets at all times while they are wearing costumes.

If you will be putting a pet in a costume, gradually introduce the pet to the costume ahead of the holiday or Halloween event to get the pet familiar with wearing it.

2. Keep pets away from trick-or-treaters. For pets that are easily frightened (or those not used to being around a lot of people, especially children), Halloween can be a nightmare, with strangers dressed in frightening or unusual outfits and masks. Even a familiar face can become unrecognizable to a pet when dressed up.

Pets—especially those that can be shy, wary or aggressive around people—should be kept away from trick-or-treaters or party guests. Put pets in another room and close all the doors and windows in that safe space. They can relax with favorite toys, and you can even turn on the television or play calming music for pets.

Keep in mind that trick-or-treating hours are not a good time for dog walks, as children will be out and about in many neighborhoods. If you can’t complete a dog walk earlier in the day, then plan some indoor activities and playtime to provide the dog with exercise.

If you will be caring for any pets that are typically outside, ask the pet owners in advance about bringing them inside on Halloween night to avoid malicious tricksters who might try to frighten or harm animals. Also, a neighborhood that is normally quiet but becomes busy and loud on Halloween night can cause undue stress to outside pets.

3. Make sure your pet’s identity is no mystery. Even if pets will be inside on Halloween night or during Halloween celebrations, each pet owner should still ensure the pet is wearing a tag with the owner’s name and current contact information in case the pet somehow escapes the house. Pet owners should also consider microchipping their pets.

If a pet somehow slips out the door on a night like Halloween, proper identification will be vital to ensuring that the pet and owner are reunited as promptly as possible.

4. Don’t let sweet treats and decorations be a nightmare. Halloween treats pose another danger for pets. While most pet owners are aware that chocolate and other candies can be deadly if ingested by pets, younger trick-or-treaters or non-pet-owning guests may not know. Halloween party guests and other visitors should be reminded not to share chocolate with the dog, no matter how much he or she begs. Keep some pet-friendly treats on hand instead.

As the popularity of this holiday continues to increase, so does the number of Halloween and fall-themed decorations. Pet owners should take special care to keep pets away from Jack-o-Lanterns with real candles inside and other Halloween décor that could cause harm if chewed or ingested, including wires to decorations. Halloween pumpkin or corn displays that are uncooked and potentially moldy can cause problems such as gastrointestinal upset, intestinal problems if eaten in large chunks, or even neurological problems if moldy, according to PetMD, so keep pets away from them.

5. Highlight the importance of avoiding pseudo pet sitters. Halloween is a great time to market your business, since Halloween plans may keep pet owners away from home for special parties and events and they could use someone to check on the pets. Pets deserve the best care this October and throughout the year, and you are poised to provide it.

It’s also a great time to remind pet owners via social-media channels and community outlets not to be tricked by pseudo pet sitters—that they should hire only professionalpet sitters.


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2018 by Patty Millin, Owner