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'Howl'oween: Finding a costume and keeping your pet safe on Halloween

Friday - 10/18/2013, 6:07am  ET

Believe it or not, dressing up a pet can be a great way to include the whole family in Halloween celebrations. (Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)
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Keeping your pet safe on Halloween

WTOP's Rachel Nania reports.


Halloween costume ideas ... for your pet

WTOP's Rachel Nania reports.


WASHINGTON - Halloween isn't just a holiday for humans. Many pets join in on the festivities, as well.

But before you zip your four-legged family member in a costume and make it part of the party, keep in mind some of these safety considerations.

Pet Costumes

Believe it or not, dressing up a pet can be a great way to include the whole family in Halloween celebrations. Costumes for pets have come a long way from traditional "pumpkins" and "witches."

Katy Nelson, local veterinarian and host of "The Pet Show with Dr. Katy," says a lot of times, people tend to mirror their pets' costumes with what is hot in the movie theaters.

"So I suspect with ‘Gravity' coming out, we'll see some astronaut dogs. Superheroes are always fun for pets. You can have Batdog or Superdog or whatever you are going for," says Nelson, who says she is sticking with the classics this year -- a "Star Wars" theme for her dogs.

But Nelson says before you go parading your pet around on Halloween, there are a few things to keep in mind.

For starters, consider acclimating your pet to its new attire, especially if your four-legged is not used to wearing clothes on a regular basis.

"Some dogs out there are used to rocking a hoodie pretty much every day, but the ones that aren't used to it. We really do need to get them comfortable with it before you expect them to wear it for two to three hours," says Nelson, who recommends a few "dress rehearsals" before the big night.

Also, make sure the costume is not too tight around your pet's neck or stomach area.

"You definitely don't want anything that is going to prevent them from breathing in and out comfortably," Nelson says.

Finally, if the pet costume comes with buttons or beads, consider removing them before dressing your pet.

"That's something we don't really have to think about in costumes for adults, but whenever we're dressing kids as pets, we need to think about the little tiny pieces and parts," Nelson says.

Halloween Decorations and Desserts

Jack-o'-lanterns, candles and luminaries are common sights on Halloween night, but these decorations can pose potential hazards for pets -- especially those with happy tails.

Nelson suggests that if you are going to include these decorations at your Halloween party or on Halloween night, to put them in a location where your pet can't get to them.

The candy component of Halloween also can be a danger for pets. While many pet owners know chocolate isn't healthy for pets, Nelson says sugar, in general, should be avoided, as it can lead to GI distress.


Dressing up as a scary creature and running around, ringing door bells and shouting, "Trick-or-treat," makes perfect sense to humans, but this can all be very scary for some pets.

"We make Halloween spooky for us, and we want it to be spooky ... but pets don't know that we're doing it on purpose, and so it can be an extremely scary time for them," Nelson says.

She recommends keeping your pet in a quiet area of your home, where it can feel safe and remain calm. This will keep your pet from accidentally escaping out the door or accidentally hurting a trick-or-treater.

"You know, you may not have an aggressive dog, but if you've got somebody in a super scary costume that's yelling at your person, it can be something that's stressful and may make them act in a way that they normally wouldn't act," Nelson says.

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