Frightfully fun – Indulge your dog in Halloween, but be safe about it
By Gina Spadafori
When did Halloween become such a big holiday? It’s second only to Christmas, it seems, for decorating and celebrating, with special stores full of frightful fare and merchandise hitting all other retailers before summer is over.
It’s all in fun, of course, and whenever pet lovers have fun, our pets are usually included.
But holidays are often anything but fun for many pets. While we humans love the change in routine with the parties, the guests and the decorations, our furred and feathered family members too often find the disruptions disturbing — and sometimes dangerous.
Like all holidays, Halloween is not without its hazards. The two biggest problems are injuries and poisoning — and animal emergency clinics traditionally see plenty of both. When you’re planning to include your pet in holiday plans, keep pet protection in the mix.
With the increase in activity around the neighborhood, cats and dogs get nervous, and some will take off if they can. That means an increase in the number of animals hit by cars. Other times, animals may be a cause of injury: All those costumed young visitors can trigger territorial instincts or fear responses in some dogs, who may then become a bite risk.
The best solution for nervous pets is to confine them for the evening in a crate or a quiet room far from the front door or any holiday festivities.
Many animal-welfare groups warn that black cats are at special risk around Halloween, claiming that cultists pick up the animals for ritual torture. Such concerns have led many shelters to halt the adoption of black cats in the days before Halloween.
In truth, such cruelties are so poorly documented that they surely happen rarely, if at all. Your black cat is more likely to be killed by a car than a cultist, since it’s difficult to see a black cat in the dark. But the threat of either is more than reason enough to keep him inside.
If you keep your pets confined safely inside the house, you will eliminate one source of risk. Keeping them away from the goodies will take care of the other risk.
Candy is a problem more for dogs than for cats because cats are generally picky about what they eat. Not so for many dogs, who’ll wolf down candy (wrappers and all) if given the opportunity, giving many a serious case of what veterinarians call “garbage gut.” While chocolate really isn’t the deadly threat many believe, a small dog who gets a large amount of dark chocolate does need veterinary intervention. A bigger threat to all pets, though, is from candy and gum sweetened with Xylitol. It’s deadly stuff for pets, so keep it out of their reach.
And finally, what about costumes for pets? If it makes you happy, go for it. Your dog doesn’t care if he has a biker jacket, sunglasses, an ear-hugging visor or even a colorful bandanna. He’ll put up with most anything you put on him, as long as it means spending more time with you.
If putting a costume on your dog means you’ll fuss over him and maybe take him somewhere interesting, like the costume contests that are everywhere these days, then sure, it’s a no-lose proposition. Dress up your dog and have some fun.
Do make sure that any costume you choose or make meets commonsense standards: It’s comfortable and nonrestrictive, inedible, and it doesn’t involve anything that could be hazardous, such as dye or paint. There has never been a wider selection of silly stuff for pets at retailers, so you can pick up a costume or two easily.
I’ve dressed up my pets before, and I have to say that my favorite costume of all time — a first-place prize-winner at more than one contest — was also the cheapest and easiest. I purchased a package of round white dots from an office supply store, and put them all over my black retriever. His “Reverse Dalmatian” get-up got laughs everywhere we went.