Treat your four-legged friends to a safe Halloween with these simple tips.

By Emily Edmonds

Home Security

A constantly ringing doorbell or a party can stress your pet. "Masks and costumes change how people look and smell," explains Kirsten Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. "Even someone familiar can become scary." A dog may run around, bark incessantly or even bite people. Consider placing him in a quiet room or securing him with a leash. "This can also help prevent accidental escapes," she says.

Candy Patrol

Your pet has a sweet tooth, but chocolate and the artificial sweetener xylitol, found in sugar-free gum and pudding, can be toxic to animals. Ask your family not to sneak anything to your pet. "Pick up treats and wrappers from the floor or low surfaces," says Lori Morton-Feazell, director of animal care, education and compliance for Petco. Store candy out of sight, and keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number (888-426-4435) on hand in case of an emergency.

Pumpkin Pointers

The fruit and its seeds, which are often found in organic pet food, aren't toxic to cats or dogs. However, carved pumpkins can be dangerous. "Jack-o'-lanterns can become moldy, causing stomach problems," says Morton-Feazell. "Call the vet if your animal has nibbled one." Avoid illuminating them with candles, which can be knocked over by a wagging tail or a curious animal. Instead, opt for battery-powered lights.

Costume Check

If you're dressing up your pet, do a test run in advance to check for potential problems and agitation. Put a towel on his back to make sure it doesn't bother him, suggests Morton-Feazell. Choose loose-fitting styles and avoid heavy fabrics, like wool and fleece. "Outfits should be simple and not limit an animal's ability to move or use his senses," she says. "Avoid garments that cover eyes or ears and might tangle his legs." Also check for embellishments: Sequins, fringe or small decorative items could be a choking hazard.

Hang with Care

A hungry pet and Halloween decorations can be a recipe for disaster. "Felines love shiny things, like glitter, which can cause a blockage if ingested," warns Morton-Feazell. "Consuming fake cobwebs can lead to intestinal issues, and the liquid material in glow sticks may upset a cat's or dog's stomach." Place decor far out of animals' reach, and try not to leave them alone in a decorated room.

Family Circle's Best-Dressed Pets Contest

We want to see your pets dressed to the nines! Upload a photo of your animal in costume to our Best-Dressed Pets Contest for the opportunity to win one of five $50 Petco gift cards. Go to to access the Facebook Contest App or post a snapshot on Instagram — just be sure to include the hashtag #fcpets.

FC Fact: According to the National Retail Federation, 2012's most popular pet costumes were pumpkin, devil and hot dog.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.