Image via Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock.com
By John Gilpatrick
Halloween is a great time to let loose, become someone (or something) else for a night, exercise creativity and just revel in some good fun.
For pets, however, Halloween can be quite an unnerving and stressful holiday. Everyone and everything around them looks different—stranger, scarier—and they don’t have the cultural context to grasp why. And that’s only getting into the human costumes.
Before you plan a matching costume with your pet, consider these possible Halloween pet safety hazards to see if their Halloween dog costume or cat costume is a good fit.
Trying to put costumes on your pet can sometimes amplify their stress and discomfort. Some pets might not think much of it, especially if the costume is lightweight, has only a few pieces and doesn’t obstruct the pet’s eyes, nose or mouth, says Dr. Ladan Mohammad-Zadeh, critical care specialist at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Other pets may find it overwhelming and not tolerate the costume at all.
How can you know if a costume will ultimately stress out your pet? “If you’re not sure, test it out by putting a small T-shirt on them first,” Dr. Mohammad-Zadeh says. “You’ll know immediately by their body language.”
“Some signs that they are uncomfortable might include pawing at the costume, attempting to remove it, shaking their body vigorously, nervous running, cowering, constant scratching, pinned-back ears or a tucked tail.”
Another surefire way to know if a cat is stressed out by wearing a costume is if they freeze or fall over and don’t move at all.
Anything with a lot of buttons or bangles may be a hazard for your pet, says Dr. Erick Mears, a veterinarian with BluePearl Veterinary Partners. But that doesn’t just apply to your pet’s costume—be conscious of the accessories on your own Halloween costume as well. Small pieces that can break off and be swallowed pose a threat to pet safety.
“Any costume parts they ingest can be dangerous and cause intestinal obstruction or other issues,” says Dr. Mohammad-Zadeh. “If your dog swallows a part of the costume, call your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital to discuss whether your pet needs treatment. If your pet has trouble breathing or begins to vomit, seek medical care immediately.”
Pets can get spooked easily—not necessarily due to an especially frightening costume, but rather if they can’t see everything around them.
“This can lead to further stress or injuries, depending on your pet’s reaction,” Dr. Mohammad-Zadeh says. “Be careful with hats, wigs or any headgear that could fall down and cover your pet’s eyes.”
The Wrong Fit
“If you put your pet in a costume, make sure it’s loose-fitting and doesn’t restrict their movements,” Dr. Mears says. But if a dog costume or cat costume is too loose, you risk them getting entangled and tripping while they walk.
“The costume should be easy to slip on the pet and give the pet full mobility,” Dr. Mohammad-Zadeh says. “It should not be skintight. If your pet starts to show signs of shortened breath, heavy breathing or any other respiratory issues, remove the costume immediately.”
Pay especially close attention to the fit around the neck and chest areas. If breathing issues persist, seek veterinary care immediately.
Not Using a Leash
Just because Dorothy carried Toto in a little wicker basket doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your Toto on his dog leash.
“Even the most tame, well-trained animal can get scared from all the hustle and bustle outdoors on Halloween,” Dr. Mohammad-Zadeh says. “If not on a leash, a frightened pet could easily escape, and their costume could get caught on trees, bushes or fences. Your pet may get stuck or seriously injured in the process.”
If your pet runs away, they could also be hit by a car, causing serious injuries.
Safe Pet Costume Ideas
Dog costumes or cat costumes that adhere to these pet safety guidelines should be safe for Halloween. Here are a few ideas to consider:
For a simple dog costume that is sure to entertain everyone, you can try the Pet Krewe big dog lion mane. This costume is minimal, so it will not make your pet feel restricted, and it is sure to put a smile on people’s faces.
For small dogs or cats, there is the Pet Krewe pirate dog and cat costume, which is great for pets who do not like full-body costumes. It only covers the front of your pet, but doesn’t compromise on being a great costume.
Before Halloween night, let your pet wear the costume around the house to get used to it. This will also let you know if the costume will irritate your pet’s skin or if your pet is allergic to the materials.