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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Costumes for Pets: Cruel or All in Good Fun?

Finding a costume for a large breed dog is challenging. When I walk through Petsmart, I see tons of small to medium sized choices: a hot dog, Yoda, a fireman. Once your dog hits sixty pounds or so, dogs enter that no man’s land known as “I don’t think so.”


I don’t know why this is. Perhaps people with larger breed dogs, who tend to be a little sportier, perhaps, or maybe just harder to stuff into costumes, really don’t buy them. Lots of people think putting costumes on dogs is stupid to begin with, a selfish exercise in animal cruelty.


I don’t agree.


I mean, I’m not kidding myself here. My dog doesn’t get any particular thrill out of being dressed up as Bret Michaels (my favorite Brody costume to date, by the way), but neither does it traumatize him. It’s just one of those annoying things his owner makes him do, like get in the bathtub or get off the couch. I know it’s about my own entertainment more than his life enrichment, but I’m okay with that.


When my human babies were less than a year old, I also put them in costumes. My daughter wore her giraffe costume for 10 minutes, and every single picture I have is of her screaming. My son was dressed up as Chewbacca, but at least he was smiling. Now that they are older, neither of them seems to have suffered any long term psychological damage and I have pictures that make me smile. I haven’t found any major pediatric institutions decrying the practice. Kids survive just fine.


Like young children unable to speak for themselves, pets have varying responses to the whole costume thing. Some love the extra attention and would happily wear their costume 24/7(see any pug for a good example). Others are tolerant and will deal with it long enough for you to get your picture, but that’s about it. As long as the costumes do not pose a safety hazard or cause the pet obvious distress, I don’t really care what people do. A pet’s resigned indifference is A-OK in my book, because I know five seconds later, when the costume comes off, my dog gets lots of treats and love and it’s all good.


Maybe my perspective has been colored by the cases I’ve seen of tremendous animal abuse and neglect, but I really can’t get too excited about the whole costume thing. Silly? Sure. Cruel? Nah.


Do you dress your pets up for Halloween? Or have any suggestions for what I should do for Brody this year? I think he’s overdue for a photo shoot.



Dr. Jessica Vogelsang



Image: Istolethetv / Flickr

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