Do a quick Google search for Halloween costumes for pets and you'll find page after page of ideas for ways to dress up your furry friend as a scarecrow, a pirate or the cookie monster. But few articles address whether or not you should put your pet in a costume in the first place. Is it safe? Will the dog hate it? Which costumes are best? We delved into these questions and got some expert advice on the best way to include your pet in the Halloween festivities or another other time of year the costume question comes up.
"The most important thing to consider when dressing your pet up for Halloween is safety," says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital.
Holistic veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan elaborated, "Be very careful with strings or anything tied around the neck. No rubber bands or elastic around legs or ears or necks. Nothing long that could be a tripping hazard or get tangled around legs."
Also watch out for loose items like ribbons, lace or bells that your pet might chew on or swallow.
If your pet will be trick-or-treating with you and your kids, it's also important to make sure that the costume is reflective or lit up so that he is visible to cars and pedestrians. If it's not, purchase an inexpensive roll of reflective tape, cut it into strips, and apply it to the costume.
Your pet's personality is another major factor to consider when choosing a Halloween costume. "Some pets, especially cats, might dislike wearing costumes altogether. If your pet is one of them, don’t force it into a costume," says the Humane Society of the United States.
If your pet is finicky, you might try downsizing the costume to a holiday-themed collar, bandana, or bow, but even that may be pushing it for some pets. If your pet resists, back off and don't force it.
If your pet does enjoy costumes, feel free to pick one to match her style, and give her ample opportunity to get used to it before you parade her around town. Never leave your pet unattended while she's wearing her costume and be sure to monitor her for signs of stress and to make sure that she can move freely while wearing it. If she is excessively panting or walking more slowly than normal, it might be a sign that the costume needs to go.
Erin Askeland, a pet expert and training manager at the doggy day care center Camp Bow Wow added "costumes shouldn’t constrict your pet’s movement, hearing or sight, or impede their ability to breathe, bark or meow."
Be very careful about costume ideas that involve dyeing your pet's fur. "Remember pets will lick the hair and ingest whatever is used," said Morgan. So no commercial hair dye and no bleach. And while food grade dyes are considered relatively safe, you may want to think about how much red dye #5 your pet needs to ingest.
One more factor to think about is the weather on Halloween night. A full costume might not bother a pup when it's cool outside, but if you live in say, Miami, where trick-or-treating may be hot and humid, it's probably best to keep your pet's Halloween duds minimal to prevent overheating.