It’s officially fall, which means it’s time for cooler weather (for most Texans), pumpkin spice lattes, and tiny hot dog costumes for your pets. While some of us at Brilliant Energy are a teeny bit embarrassed to admit we can go a little overboard when it comes to celebrating Halloween with our pets, we’re never ashamed about how we handle their safety. To ensure your pet has a devilishly-good time this Halloween, here are five ways to keep them safe.
Invest in pet-friendly costumes
“For millions of Americans, it’s important for pets to get in on the Halloween fun too,” says Megumi Kato, spokeswoman for thrift-store chain Savers. According to Savers’ Halloween survey, nearly 1 in 5 millennials dress up their pets, and 25 percent post those photos online. Before your pet is dressed in its most terrifying (or adorable) get-up this year, make sure the costume won’t be harmful to them. The costume shouldn’t restrict movement or block their vision. Remove any tags and loose threads, opt for breathable (e.g. cotton) or flame-retardant fabrics, and keep removable parts that use Velcro or breakaway collars in mind for all accessories. This way, if a mishap does occur your pet can quickly get out of the costume without incident. “[I]t may be helpful to try on costumes before the big night,” advises behavior expert and national spokeswoman Erin Askeland, at Camp Bow Wow. “If your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, don't bother.”
Keep things cool
In 2014 Americans spent $350 million on pet costumes, reports the National Retail Federation. And if you’re like Brilliant team members, you may have spent more time picking out the perfect pet costume than your pet wearing it. And that’s OK because we know how challenging it can be to dress up our furry pals! While some pets don’t mind the extra attention, others make it clear that costumes aren’t for them, especially when the Texas weather isn’t as nice. “For those of us in the South, we need to take a few extra precautions to keep our four-legged family members happy and safe. It may be Fall, but it can be as hot as the gates of Hell to our furry loved ones,” says Floridian Surya Cherian, in an email. To help prevent your pet from experiencing a heat stroke while trick-or-treating, carry an extra water bottle and travel bowl just for them, and take frequent breaks. The Wonder Costumes spokeswoman recommends that large-breed dogs should stick to bandana-, cape-, and hat-only costumes, while smaller dogs should be OK with full-body costumes since they process heat and energy differently. “My Cocker-Spaniel Chow-Chow mix, Becky is a fur ball. We stick to simple costumes that let air flow like capes,” she adds.
*For costume ideas, keep reading!
Don’t let them escape
The constant barrage of doorbells ringing and trick-or-treaters screaming is enough to stress out even the calmest of pets. To help keep them relaxed, seclude them to a room opposite of the front door and turn on a television or radio to help drown out excess noises. Or if your pet prefers the action, don’t let them get too close to the door and install a gate around your foyer. This will keep curious hands out of reach of your pet and will keep them from making a break for the outside world while you’re distracted with all those goody bags. However, always prepare for the worst and make sure your pet’s ID tags and microchip data are up-to-date. As we reported in last year’s New Year’s blog post, you’re more likely to be reunited with your pet if they’re microchipped than if they’re not, reports a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Look for pet-friendly accessories
If your family is trick-or-treating with your pet this year, you may want to make sure you both can be seen by passing cars. Glow sticks are an obvious and inexpensive option for this, but if ingested they’re actually dangerous to your pets. The Pet Poison Helpline saw a 12 percent spike in calls during Halloween week last year, and one of the common culprits was glow sticks. They report they received 80 calls concerning glow sticks, 70 percent of which involved cats. Ingesting a small amount isn’t usually life-threatening, but it can cause mouth irritation, stomach upset, and drooling or foaming at the mouth. If your trick-or-treating troupe really wants to use glow sticks, find pet-friendly varieties. For example, PetSmart and Life Gear have teamed up to offer pet-safe products, including the nontoxic LED Reusable Glow Stick. They offer 20 hours of continuous light and come in a variety of colors, and can easily attach to your pet’s harness.
Remember people treats can be tricky to pets
While it may seem nice to include your pet on the spoils of a Halloween haul, remember that most treats are a no-no for your furry friend. “Families should talk about candy and pet safety before trick-or-treating,” cautions Sarah Hall Weaver, a spokeswoman for Vermont-based retailer Orvis. “Pick a safe spot in the house (high cupboards/shelves or even in the fridge) and remember to make sure wrappers make it safely into a secure garbage can.”
So what exactly is off-limits to pets? As we shared last year, Chocolate is the No. 1 toxin among dogs, according to Pet Poison Hotline, a 24-hour animal poison control service center. Even sugar-free treats like gum and some peanut butter spreads can be harmful if they contain the sweetener xylitol. Grapes, cherry pits, flowers, liquor, and other items are also harmful. For additional details on household treats and poison, review our Valentine’s Day pet safety guide.
What can they eat? Pumpkin is not toxic to pets, but it may cause stomach upset due to its fiber content, notes pet poison experts. Apples (not the seeds) are another pet-friendly treat.
If you believe your pet has been exposed to a toxin, contact your veterinarian, or a pet poison hotline. The Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680) bills $39 per call, and includes unlimited follow-up consultations. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) charges $65 per call, and includes one follow-up consultation. Both hotlines are available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Top Pet Halloween Costumes In 2016
It’s no surprise to Brilliant that pet owners love their pets. In fact, more of us are dressing them up for Halloween than ever before. This year 16.2 percent of Americans will outfit their pets in crazy costume creations, reports the National Retail Federation (NRF), which tracks consumer spending. For all costumes, people and pet, we’ll spend $3.1 billion!
With so many costume choices out there (and now limited time), we’re always on the lookout for costume inspiration. If you and your pet are looking to go classic or unique this Halloween season, we’ve got some great picks for you in the NRF’s annual survey. Here are the top Halloween costumes of 2016 (and how you can pair them with your pet).
10. Cat This get up is simple enough where you and your (presumably dog) could dress up in matching outfits.
9. Action/Superhero Go with a “couples theme” with your pet as one superhero and you as another.
8. Superman Let your pet take all the attention as Superman (or Supergirl) and you can dress up as the secret identity Clark Kent (or Kara Kent).
7. Witch Dress up as coven siblings, or one can be the witch and the other can be the flying broom. Have fun with it!
6. Batman Character Similar to Superman above, this option allows you and your furry friend to personify the mysterious vigilante himself. Add a cape and bat ears and you will be the talk of the party! Better yet, one of you can be the Joker.
5. Devil Similarly, the concept for the witch could work here (just replace broom with pitchfork).
4. Lion/Star Wars Character (tied)
3.Bumble Bee This one is too adorable; give your pet the black-and-yellow stripes and turn yourself into the flower. So every time they give your face a lick, those pesky petless owners won’t look at you as funny (at least for one night).
2. Hot Dog This costume should really only be reserved for one breed (we’ll give you a minute to figure it out). And as a popular commercial demonstrates nothing goes better with a hot dog than a condiment bottle.
1. Pumpkin Have an entire litter at home? You can make your carvings unique enough that the entire family can be a different pumpkin!
Don’t forget to enter Brilliant Energy’s Costumed Companions photo contest before November 1, 2016!