We see it every year. Trick-or-treaters making the rounds with a leashed dog dressed as a witch, superhero or a resident of France. We often laugh, but is your pet also laughing, or is it miserably uncomfortable or even frightened? The first rule of adorning your pet with a Halloween costume is to make sure your little friend is safe and happy. Some pets, almost always dogs, seem to enjoy dressing up and all the excitement of visiting neighbors. It takes a very special cat to accept a costume, much less like it. So we are talking mostly about dogs in this article. And as the title implies, always think “safety first.”
Tips for Costuming Your Pet
1. Beware of flammable costumes, such as tissue paper or other materials that can easily catch on fire. Leather is a much better choice.
2. Gauge your dog’s emotions. Is it stressed in any way by wearing the costume? If a pet shows any signs of displeasure, don’t force it to wear the costume, or switch to something simpler. A nice orange bandana can usually be well tolerated. Some pets don’t mind wearing hats that are fastened around the neck. Be especially sensitive to cats – they can easily be frightened or upset by attempts to clothe them.
3. Beware of choking hazards. Don’t tie straps too tightly around your dog’s neck. Don’t dress it in a costume that can get snagged around the neck. Pay attention to ribbons, bow ties, or other frills that hang on your pet’s neck.
4. Don’t constrain the pet’s movements. It is wrong to limit a pet’s senses or freedom to move. They rely on their ability to smell, hear and see to remain safe, so don’t put them in a costume that interferes with these senses. Don’t put on anything that restricts your pet’s ability to breathe, eat, drink, bark or eliminate wastes.
5. Consider your pet’s personality. When you put a cute costume on a dog, people are naturally encouraged to reach out and pet it. But if your dog doesn’t like to be petted by strangers, this is a very bad strategy.
6. Avoid costumes that your pet wants to chew on or eat. We’ve already mentioned paper as a fire hazard. Colored paper costumes may have chemicals in them can hurt your pet if eaten, or even just in making contact with your pet’s skin. Wool might look nice on your pet, but make sure it doesn’t cause itching.
7. Don’t supersize the hat. Even if your pet tolerates a hat, make sure it isn’t so big that it impedes your pet’s vision. You wouldn’t want bangles or beads hanging down in your face – your pet probably feels the same way.
8. Pick a bright costume, such as dayglow orange, that can easily be seen in the dark, especially when crossing the street. A little flashlight attachment to the collar can be a good idea.
9. Adjust the costume if you pet shows signs that it is too tight or scratchy, or if it is annoyed by swinging beads or baubles.
10. Keep your pet on a short leash. If you are in a crowded location such as a Halloween parade, make sure your dog is close by and secure.
11. Beware of mischievous children. Some kids think that dressing a pet in a costume gives them license to annoy the pet, or worse.
12. Don’t overdo it by weighing down your pet with too much clothing. When it comes to costuming pets, a little goes a long way.
13. Make sure your pet is wearing its tags, just in case it gets loose and runs away. Better yet, a microchip or GPS wearable can help you track down your pet, should it escape.
14. Don’t let your pet overheat. Trick-or-treating at 3PM in Miami can be tough on a dressed up pet, especially if its 85 degrees. Conversely, if you’re celebrating Halloween in Alaska, make sure the costume keeps your pet warm.
15. Watch out for other dogs. Your pet may encounter all sorts of new and strange dogs during the Halloween rounds. How does your dog react to other dogs? Don’t make your dog a victim.
16. Don’t let your pet eat treats from strangers (or even non-strangers) unless you recognize the goody as a pet treat. Some dogs are allergic to chocolate and can get very sick by eating it. If you’re not sure what foods are potentially dangerous to your pet, talk it over with your veterinarian.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.