Halloween costumes for our pets can be cute, but they can also pose a few hazards.
Allergies/irritants: You have to be careful of the types of material used in the pet costume, or what the costume was possibly washed in. Certain fabrics and laundry detergents can cause irritation to your pet’s sensitive skin. They could be abrasive against their bellies, cause a rash, or cause itching of the abdomen, face, legs, or paws.
Loose or dangling pieces: With detailed costumes, there may be dangling parts like eight bouncing legs if you put a spider costume on your Shih Tzu, bells only held by a flimsy piece of string, bows, fake tails, feathers, etc. But these items could potentially be things your pet trips over, or tries to chew off and swallow. This would cause risk of choking. Or, if your pet does ingest a piece of its costume, could lead to a costly visit to the vet for x-rays and possible surgery for an obstruction. You also don’t want anything on your pet that they could strangle themselves on – this is why emergency break-away collars are good for cats because they can squish themselves into small spaces and why harnesses are a safer idea than collars for dog breeds like English Bulldogs or Dachshunds.
Restrictive costumes (or, It’s Too Tight!): This goes along with potential strangulation. You don’t want a costume that is too tight around your pet’s body. Watch out for pesky elastics or adhesives that are holding a costume together. These items can also pinch and pull out fur – ouch!
You also do not want to obstruct your pet’s vision (like with masks or head pieces) or potentially restrict breathing (you should probably not put anything that covers your Bulldog’s face).
Not to mention, if a costume is too restrictive or limits a pet’s mobility, this is very uncomfortable to an animal and can cause anxiety.
It’s important to recognize your pet’s anxiety cues, and not just for Halloween: panting, ears back, yawning, aggression, tail tucked, urination or defecation in the house, vocalization (like excessive meowing or barking), pacing, drooling, destructive behavior, decreased appetite, trembling, excessive grooming, hiding. Stress can then trigger health issues for your furry friend like diarrhea, immune suppressant response, and idiopathic cystitis among other problems.
A warning about taking your pet in his or her costume outdoors among the trick-or-treaters: Halloween night entails loud excited children, possible traffic sounds, other unusual and/or loud noises, and potentially hazardous Halloween decorations. And if your pet gets spooked, they may run away. It is probably a good idea to make sure your pet is microchipped, has visible contact information on their collar, or even invest in a tracking device that you can attach to their collar or harness. Or better yet, if you know your pet doesn’t have the temperament for a loud, chaotic environment, leave them home in a comfortable calming room.
Do not ever leave an animal by itself while in a costume (and it’s probably not a good idea to leave your pet alone outside during Halloween anyway). There is the potential for an increase in pet abductions on Halloween. And let’s not forget those of us who are pet parents to black cats. Halloween brings out spooky tales of folk lore and superstitions, and there will always be cruel people. This is why some animal shelters do not adopt out their black cats on or around Halloween, for the cats’ safety.
This should be an enjoyable time for both of you, not scary or stressful. So before you pull out the sewing kit or go to Petsmart to pick out a cute pet costume, remember to keep in mind what is safe and comfortable for your furry friend.