Most owners realize that fireworks are frightening for their pet, but far fewer are as aware that Halloween can also be an extremely stressful time for the canine population. There are a huge number of reasons why your dog might become anxious, stressed, fearful or even aggressive during Halloween celebrations – from the arrival of strangers dressed in weird and potentially scary costumes to the unusual smells and sounds associated with this wildly popular annual holiday. The strangeness of this night can cause even the most laid-back dog to become on-edge.
On the flip side, some dogs will become excited by all of the changes in routine and may exhibit hyperactive behaviors. These can cause damage to people and property and he may be very hard to control.
How do I know if my dog is stressed or worried?
Animals are naturally pre-disposed to hiding any vulnerabilities or weaknesses. Nevertheless, there are some signs that may indicate that your dog is feeling stressed or anxious this Halloween. These include:
- Increased vocalization: barking, whining, howling
- Pacing / seeming unsettled
- Yawning excessively
- Drooling or licking
- Rapid blinking and dilated pupils
- Ears pinned back against the side of their head
- Tucking his tail
- Cowering or making himself seem small
- Hiding away, such as under your bed
- Suddenly urinating or defecating where he shouldn’t
What you can do to help your dog feel safe during trick-or-treat season
Fortunately, there are numerous things that you can do to help your dog handle the stress of Halloween night.
Some tips that are regularly recommended by veterinarians include:
- Exercise your dog during the day. This will help work off some of his energy and help prevent him from becoming too bouncy and over-excitable when the Halloween festivities begin.
- Keeping your dog indoors as soon as it gets dark. If you need to walk him, do it earlier in the day or stick to the backyard for him to do his business.
- Create a safe space somewhere in the center of your home well away from doors and if you can, windows. Place his bed and favorite blankets and toys here along with some treats. Do not give him access to the front or back entrances to your property.
- Stay with your dog as much as possible. Your presence will help to reassure him that he is safe and being looked after.
Another very beneficial step that can help your dog to feel calm and relaxed while trick-or-treating is taking place is using various products designed for this purpose.
Products to calm your pet
The last decade has seen an influx of products on the market that are designed specifically to help calm down a hyperactive or highly stressed animal. Many of these products contain different blends of essential oils that work alongside the neurotransmitters in your pet’s brain, which work by telling the nerves to calm down, counteracting the overstimulation that causes them to trigger anxiety or hyperactivity.
These types of product include, but are not limited to:
- Scented air filters and diffusers that you can plug in around your home. These slowly release calming scents into the air.
- Calming collars. These use pheromone technology to calm the nervous system and modify stress-related behaviors that your dog might exhibit.
- Tablets and chews. These supplements are usually made with 100% natural ingredients and must be taken as directed.
- Sonic collars. These release frequency-specific music right behind your dog’s ears to help keep him calm.
- Sprays and other topical lotions that contain non-toxic ingredients designed to induce a calming effect.
- Weighted or wrapping jackets. These have been shown to help dogs to feel safer and more relaxed.
If these natural therapies are proving ineffective and your dog suffers badly with hyperactivity or anxiety over Halloween, you may want to talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications. There are a range of different drugs that can help reduce canine anxiety including Alprazolam, Diazepam and Paroxetine. These should always be administered exactly as directed by your veterinarian in San Antonio, TX.
If you would like more advice on keeping your dog calm and relaxed during trick-or-treat season, our friendly and knowledgeable veterinarians in San Antonio, TX are available to help. Please contact our vet office in San Antonio, TX with your questions.