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Pet Costumes: Cute, But Are They Safe?

Pet boutique owner suggests couture with caution

In the stores this time of year, along with holiday home and costume decorations, are pet costumes. But, what looks good may not always be safe. As always, because our pets have no one else to keep them safe, it’s our first consideration. After that, it’s about what’s fun!

Inman Park Pet Works owner Laura Saunders says she put this year’s costumes out about a month ago. Dogs are the pets who get the most decked out in full-body costumes, while cats generally are happier with a party collar.

“Always be careful,” Saunders says. “Proper supervision is important. Make sure the dog in the costume is supervised at all times. Make sure the pets’ costumes are not too tight, especially around the neck area, or so loose that they could make them fall. Make sure pets always have proper identification and are on a leash when you go out.”

For dogs, generally costumes that are made specifically for dogs will be safest. “Make sure when picking out costumes that your pet can still see, that it doesn’t stress them out and that they have full movement,” Saunders says. “I dress my cat in a black and white bowtie, usually around her neck. Cats don’t like full-body costumes because they like to jump and be able to move around.”

Popular dog costumes Saunders carries this year are Playboy bunny and Hugh Hefner robe and pipe, Fire chief, medical scrubs, police officer with handcuffs, Harry Potter, skeletons, pirates, knights and animal disguises like ducks, caterpillars, cows and zebras. The cost of pet costumes ranges from about $8 for a party collar to $20 to $30 for full-body costumes.

Do-it-yourself costumes are an option, with simple bandanas being the most common option. “Using a child’s costume might fit your dog, but you have to make sure that they’ll be comfortable, safe and happy in it,” Saunders says.

If you're handy with a needle or a hot-glue gun, fabric stores offer pet costume patterns. Or, to make your own really from scratch, PetSmart offers an online pet sizing guide.

Choking hazards also should be avoided. Large parts that can be chewed off and stuck in an animal’s throat should be avoided.

“Paints, dyes, fabrics – all things that might come in contact with pets should be marked, just like any kids products – ‘nontoxic,’ ” Saunders suggests.

In the 1950s it was sometimes popular to dye poodles wild colors that don’t occur nature, but Saunders says that could be traumatic and that it’s important to keep toxicity in mind. It might be tempting to clip your pet down with funky patterns, but clipper burn and removing the protection that the animal’s coat is designed to provide should be a deterrent.

Not directly related to costumes are a couple of other safety concerns, Saunders said. One is food hazards, especially chocolate, which is toxic to animals.

Also, at this time of year, the time change is also an adjustment for animals. In fact, veterinarians report more dogs are hit by cars after the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, which this year is Sunday, October 30, just one day before Halloween. For tips on how to be a safer driver and avoid pedestrian hazards, see these National Highway Transportation Administation suggestions.

For more tips, see the ASPCA's pet Halloween safety sheet.

If you want to take your pet out on the town for Halloween, consider attending “Costumes on the Woof” at the Loew’s Hotel in Midtown. Loews will open up the terrace for a pet costume contest, live entertainment, specialty cocktails, pet photography and canine friendly cuisine in a fund-raiser to benefit Atlanta Pet Rescue & Adoption.

Want ideas? See the slideshow of the ninth annual Howl-O-Weenie DREAM Dachshund Rescue picnic, which was held at Brook Run park in Dunwoody earlier this month.

If you just want to show off your dog in photos, enter PetSmart’s annual Howl-O-Ween pet costume contest.

Becky October 26, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Good tips for keeping the pets safe. Also recommend keeping pets inside, especially any black cats.
John February 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I think they are generally safe. At least my dog didn't seem too endangered when I dressed him as a pimp last halloween. It was hilarious. I found the dog pimp costume here: http://www.costumeshopper.com/prods/fm-pimpdog.html

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