Ah, Halloween. Not only is it one of the most fun times of the year, but also it’s a holiday that the entire family can celebrate, including the pets.
Years ago, if we wanted to dress up our pets for Halloween, we had to drag out that old white sheet and toss it over them. Nowadays, there are options upon options for just about any kind of pet you can imagine.
However, along with these new types of costumes come some dangers that we might not be aware of.
1. Avoid Stressing Your Pet
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) warns against costumes, stating not to dress up your pet at all “unless you know he or she loves it.” The ASPCA isn’t just trying to be a killjoy — sometimes these costumes cause more stress than excitement. Pets who are stressed might pant (including cats), try to remove the costume by rubbing or rolling, or even show aggression.
According to the VCA hospital, other signs of stress include:
- Excessive yawning, licking or drooling
- Dilated pupils; ears flat on head
- Excessive shedding
- Elimination changes or accidents
“Have your pet try on the costume before the big night. If he or she seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting your pet wear his or her ‘birthday suit’ or don a festive bandana instead,” the ASCPA advises.
Remember, what’s fun for us doesn’t always apply to our pets.
2. Make Sure Your Pet Can Use All 5 Senses
Just like you get nervous when you’re in a pitch-black room and can’t see or have your ears covered and can’t hear, pets get nervous when their senses are inhibited. Animals are always on the lookout for danger, even passively. When their ability to sense any danger is affected, this can lead back to stress.
If you are looking to dress up your pet, ensure that the costume fits comfortably and allows your pet to breathe easily and use all 5 senses as they normally do.
3. Watch for Choking Hazards
We all know to check for choking hazards when it comes to small children, but choking is a danger for pets as well. Check your pets’ costumes carefully and remove any small pieces that could be easily chewed off and swallowed. This also benefits any small children in your household as well; if your pet chews off a small piece of their costume, your child could find it and swallow it.
“Dogs and cats are ever curious, and second only to their noses they use their mouths to investigate new and interesting things,” warn Dr. M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, and Tracy Barr in Pet First Aid for Dummies, Portable Edition. “Pets can choke on just about anything that’s smaller than the opening to the trachea.”
4. Ensure the Costume Fits Your Pet
Costumes that don’t fit well run the risk of getting stuck on objects, leaving your pet helpless until you notice and come their rescue. It extreme cases, an animal can snag their costume and then jump down from a sofa or table, causing strangulation and possibly even death. Costumes with too much fabric around the neck run the risk of getting twisted and choking your pet.
When choosing a costume, ensure that it fits comfortably but is not too loose. Looser clothing is more likely to get stuck on something as your pet walks around.
Check out these awesome pet costumes:
5. IDs Are a Must
It can be really tempting to “just get that collar out of the way for 1 night,” but don’t do it. While Halloween certainly isn’t as traumatic to pets as holidays like 4th of July are, it’s certainly spooky enough to cause some stress. People are randomly coming to the door; decorations around the house speak or move or both. Just the alteration in the nightly routine can be enough to stress a pet, and stressed pets react unpredictably.
It only takes a second of inattention for your pet to slip out the door and run off. If they have left their collar — and ID — behind, this greatly decreases the chances they will be found.
“Remember, identification can be a lifesaver for a lost pet. It’s a good idea for all your animal companions — even indoor-only pets — to always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, current phone number and any relevant contact information,” says the ASPCA. And don’t forget to microchip your dog or cat well in advance of these holidays.
Some pets really enjoy wearing their costumes and showing them off. Others are a bit more reserved and will need you to understand their special needs. No matter where your pet falls on that spectrum, you can find something to help your pet look more festive, even if it’s just a nifty new collar.
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