By Marc Abraham
As summer closes its backdoor on historic heatwaves, endless BBQs, and hot car dangers, the beginning of autumn signifies the first of a number of upcoming human festivities with the potential to harm our pets. Believe it or not Halloween celebrations were once only about humans dressing-up (and usually just kids); but nowadays of course, the whole family must get involved – especially its four-legged members.
So are you planning to dress your dog, cat, or even hamster up in the cutest novelty costume you can find? Or perhaps make one yourself? Personally I’m not a massive fan of dressing up pets for fun as I’m not convinced all pets enjoy it, preferring instead that pets look just like pets i.e. in their birthday suit, or perhaps donning a fancy collar or fun-themed bandana; unlikely to cause any upset to collar-wearing pets.
Sorry to be a killjoy but forcing innocent pets to become pumpkins or pirates for a few hours, and let’s face it purely for our own amusement and social media likes, can often lead to unnecessary stress, resulting in abnormal, unwanted, even damaging behaviours. Ill-fitting outfits may also get snagged on external objects, or even twisted on your pet itself, leading to discomfort, pain, and even serious injury.
However if you do go ahead and decide to adorn your pet in any one of the thousands of crazy costumes available, then please make sure your pet has tried them on before the big night and they don’t appear to mind; making sure breathing, movement, hearing, and ability to bark or meow isn’t in any way impaired. Try not to put a mask on your dog or cat, or indeed anything covering their eyes or ears. Carefully check there are no small, dangling, toxic, or easily chewed-off pieces that can be swallowed, inhaled, or choked on as well.
Make sure your pet is properly identified underneath that outfit too, as if for any reason they panic, escape, and become lost, its collar, tag, and microchip are your best chance of being reunited. With the traditional abundance of sweets around at Halloween, please remember chocolate – especially dark chocolate – is extremely poisonous to dogs. Chewing gum containing artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause serious problems. Although generally safe, don’t let your pet nibble on real pumpkins, as they can cause stomach upset. If you suspect your pet’s ingested something harmful please call your vet immediately.
Take care adding candles to carved pumpkins, and never leave them unattended as pets can easily knock them over causing a fire, with curious puppies and kittens running the risk of getting burned and singed too. Fake cobwebs may choke or entangle pets, and always make sure any Halloween lights are kept well out of your pet’s reach to prevent electric shock if chewed, especially with young animals and house rabbits.
Human masks and costumes are designed to change your looks and smells, so even owners can become noisy and frightening to their own pets, with a nervous dog bite or cat scratch quickly ending any Halloween fun. Make sure pets have access to a room and/or den where they can feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed – rather than giving in to the temptation to run away scared every time your doorbell rings and front door opens!