Getting a fright is all part of the excitement of Halloween, but for our four-legged companions, it’s not such a fun time. Once Halloween is over, they then have to contend with the booms and bangs of firework season, which can be incredibly stressful for our pets.

Many vets and behaviourists will be able to advise you on the best way to help comfort your pet during this distressing time. Below is a list of helpful Halloween and bonfire night tips from the veterinary team at Natures Menu so you and your pets can safely enjoy the festivities together.


Trick or treating is the best part of Halloween for more children, but the problem with some of the treats they collect is that they may be toxic to your pets:

  • Chocolate is poisonous and clinical symptoms can depend on the type and amount consumer. In most cases, symptoms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting and restlessness. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizures and heart failure.
  • Some sweets contain an artificial sweetener called XYLITOL, which is poisonous to pets.  Symptoms caused by ingesting the sweetener can include vomiting, loss of coordination and seizures.  In severe cases it can cause liver failure.
  • Natures Menu advise keeping your treat bowl away from your pets and if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic the best thing you can do is to call your vet immediately for advice.
  • However, you can make sure your pets don’t miss out on all the fun by giving them some pet-friendly treats of their own.  Natures Menu has a range of treats that your cats and dogs will love, without being harmful to their health.

Pumpkins, decorations and fireworks

  • Although pumpkins aren’t toxic, if they’re consumed in large quantities they can cause stomach upset in pets, and as they are usually illuminated using a candle, also pose a potential fire risk.  Avoid any dangerous situations by making sure that they are carefully displayed out of paws-reach.
  • Halloween decorations can look amazing, but if wires, clips and novel items are on show, they can be very tempting to an avid chewer, so be cautious where they’re placed.
  • Loud fireworks can startle and scare your pet causing them to become distressed and even run away.  Reduce the noise and ensure that your pet is as comfortable as possible by closing your windows and curtains, putting on some music or your TV and making sure that they have somewhere to hide. Speak to your local veterinary practice for help and advice on how to make a suitable ‘den’ and additional calming aids.

Playing dress-up

If you want to dress your pet up in a costume, try it on before the night to ensure your pet is comfortable. If they show any signs of distress while wearing it, remove it and accept your pet does not want to join in the celebrations.

Signs of distress may include:

  • Ears back
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Rubbing against furniture or floor to remove clothing
  • Salivating
  • Not behaving normally – being overly-quiet or seeming down

It may be that your pet simply doesn’t like a particular element of the outfit and find it uncomfortable, so if you think they look stressed, try removing parts that cover their ears, face, tail and paws to see if that helps.

Safety during Halloween and Bonfire Night

Games such as ‘Knock-a-door-run’ and ‘Trick or Treat’, are to be expected at this time of year, but when you open the door, what’s waiting on the other side could give your pets a fright.

  • If your pet is alarmed by people dressed up in scary costumes, put them somewhere safe where they have no chance of escaping out the open door or even worse, hurting the unsuspecting trick or treater!
  • Don’t leave your cat or dog outside and make sure small pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens are also safely away for the festivities.  The noise, flashing lights and regularity of visitors can be distressing for them and they could be in danger of becoming injured by fireworks or bonfires. 
  • To be on the safe side, even when both Halloween and Bonfire Night are over, ensure your pet’s microchip and collar have all your up to date information so that if they do get spooked and run away, they can be safely reunited with you.
  • Remember that signs of stress can manifest in unwanted behaviour such as barking, or scratching furniture. Try to calm your pet rather than disciplining them, as this will do little to deter their fear in the future. 

Melanie Sainsbury, Natures Menu veterinary nurse, said, “We wanted to highlight the importance of looking after the safety of our pets, not just around Halloween and Bonfire Night but on all occasions.  Many of our celebrations pose additional risks to our pets and often they don’t understand the excitement and can find the change upsetting.  With food left out and eye-catching decorations that spark curiosity in even the most well-behaved animals, pet parents need to be more cautious than usual.

“All owners want the best for their pet and these tips are a great way to help avoid any distressing situations and spot any problems as soon as they arise.”


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