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Published: Monday, 10/28/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

CRITTER CARE

Have Halloween fun without spooking your pet

Owners should consider tolerance level for costumes

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Staci Leupp dresses up Montana before participating in a costume contest Saturday sponsored by the Lucas County Pit Crew at Wildwood Metropark for  National ‘Pit Bull’ Awareness Day. Staci Leupp dresses up Montana before participating in a costume contest Saturday sponsored by the Lucas County Pit Crew at Wildwood Metropark for National ‘Pit Bull’ Awareness Day.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore.

The National Retail Federation says Americans will spend $330 million on pet costumes this year. While that’s only a small part of the total $6.9 billion consumers spend on candy, costumes, and decorations, the category is popular and growing, say retailers and pet owners.

With pet owners spending so much time and money dressing up their pets, experts recommend giving some consideration to what your dog or cat’s tolerance level might be for sporting such attire.

“With regards to costumes, know your dog’s personality before you consider this,” said Gary Willoughby, executive director at the Toledo Area Humane Society. “Some dogs love sweaters and will have no problem wearing an outfit, while others will do anything to get it off of them. This can be especially true with items you place on their heads.”

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pet owners should follow three tips when dressing their pet up for Halloween.

First, your pet’s Halloween garb shouldn’t constrict his movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark, or meow. Second, examine your pet’s costume and make sure it doesn’t have any small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get caught on external objects or your pet, leading to injury, according to the ASPCA.

Finally, make sure your dog or cat has proper identification on underneath that cute costume. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost during Halloween festivities, tags or a microchip can be a lifesaver.

While trick or treat visitors are a normal part of the festivities, your pet may not be as thrilled with the little goblins banging on your door as you are.

“My tips would be to think about your dog’s personality and behavior when you think about Halloween night,” Mr. Willoughby said. “If he’s likely to be scared or upset by lots of visitors (especially repeated knocking at the door or the door bell ringing) you may want to keep him in his crate in another part of the house with the radio on. Or try and keep a look out for kids coming to your door and open it before they knock or ring the bell to reduce his stress level.”

If your dog is very social, he may be able to be part of the greeting committee, but make sure he won’t bolt out the door when you open it, Mr. Willoughby said.

“Consider having him on a leash, if you are concerned that he might want to explore all the fun going on in your neighborhood,” he said.

Cat owners may want to confine them to a room with food and a litter box away from the front door so they don’t slip out accidentally. Cats also should be supervised when they get close to pumpkins with lit candles inside.

“Most cats will likely back off when they feel the heat from the candle if they get too close, but I would urge pet owners to keep an eye on their pets if they choose to have lit candles inside their homes,” Mr. Willoughby said.

With Halloween comes lots of candy and other goodies. Keeping pets away from such edibles, especially chocolate, is very important, said Dr. Debbie Johnson, a veterinarian and director of operations at the Toledo Area Humane Society.

Chocolate contains an alkaloid called theobromine, which is in the same family as caffeine and is a type of stimulant. Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system and cardiovascular system and increases blood pressure.

Dogs and cats cannot metabolize theobromine as quickly as humans can, which causes the above effects to be much more severe than they are with humans.

“If a pet accidentally consumed chocolate, I would recommend the owner induce vomiting and call their veterinarian immediately,” Dr. Johnson said.

Other commonly consumed Halloween junk food such as chips is also not a good idea, she said.

“Feeding a pet fatty foods could cause pancreatitis, which in some cases can be fatal,” she said. “And any change in diet could cause gastrointestinal issues, mainly diarrhea.”

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.



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