As the days grow colder and the decorations begin to come out for the season, pet owners find themselves sorting through pet costumes, holiday coats and booties, puppy pajamas, and more. While these coats and costumes are typically harmless, there are still a few things to be watchful for to keep everyone happy, healthy, and ready for the holidays. The most common problems that appear alongside coats and costumes are anxiety and stress, overheating, choking on small items, and bodily obstruction.
First and foremost, it is important to know if your dog is comfortable in a costume before dressing them for the holidays. While we love to see pets in costumes, that doesn’t mean they all enjoy being in costumes; in fact, some dogs are uncomfortable, causing stress and anxiety. If your dog has their head down, wide eyes, ears back, a single paw raised, or is turning away from you, freezing and refusing to move, or flattening themselves against the ground when dressed, they likely are uncomfortable and should be taken out of the costume.
A handful of factors should be taken into consideration when it comes to overheating, such as the dog’s age and health, coat type, the physical environment they’ll be in, and how long the costume/coat will be worn for. Large dogs who are built for the cold can overheat quickly when additional layers are introduced. Other dogs, like Chihuahuas and Frenchies, are better suited (and tend to require) a few extra layers when the weather begins to grow colder. Full coverage and thick or heavy costumes should not be kept on for long periods of time, especially for larger, thicker coated dogs.
Many costumes tend to have a few extra parts that hang down, jingle, or detach. These extra parts are attractive to dogs as toys, and can easily become a choking hazard if detached. If a costume like this is chosen, there are a few things to look into; the age, energy level, and discipline. Young, energetic, teething puppies tend to explore with their mouths, which may spell trouble on Halloween. On the other hand, older, timid, and well-behaved dogs tend to do better with these costumes.
Lastly, costumes can restrict your pet’s movement. If a costume is too tight, stiff, or uncomfortable, your pet may resist movement, or be unable to function normally. Costumes can also obstruct vision. If this may be a problem with your pet’s costume, it should be tried on and modified before being worn for a long period of time.
While we love to see our pets dressed up as mailmen, robbers, pumpkins, and more, their comfort must come before our enjoyment. Just because a pet doesn’t do well in a costume doesn’t meant they have to skip the festivities, however! A few simple, fun alternatives to costumes this holiday season are festive collars and bandanas, seasonal toys for them to enjoy, or pet-friendly and pet-safe decorations.
Written by Tayler Detten, C.A.R.E. Volunteer