Ghouls and goblins and things that go bump in the night are one thing, but the hot dog costume? For Freddie, a generally genial little guy, that was just taking the Halloween thing too far. You think dogs can’t get embarrassed? Look at that face.
His person and biggest fan, namely my boss, meant no harm. The hot dog suit was just a last-minute impulse buy at a discount store. A bit of holiday whimsy. Who knew it would be Nightmare on Corgi Street?
Lesson learned: If your pet really doesn’t enjoy Halloween dress up, let it go.
“If you really want them to wear it, put it on them, snap a picture, and take it off,” said Erica Reineke, an associate professor with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Halloween can be lots of fun for revelers — humans and animal companions alike, but pet health experts say extra care should be taken to keep dogs and cats safe and not unduly stressed by a holiday that contains lots of strange sights, sounds, and substances that may not be ideally suited to four-legged friends.
The most obvious precaution is with all those Halloween sweets and snacks.
“We have to make sure we are careful where we put down the bounty of treats,” said Garret Pachtinger of the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC) in Levittown.
Every Halloween, lots of pets end up sick or even in vet emergency rooms after scarfing down unintended holiday goodies, stricken with gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and dehydration or worse.
An overload of candy that is rich and sugary can result in GI problems and even pancreatitis. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a zealous, snack-swiping canine will consume wrappers and all, which can lead to intestinal blockages.
Certain treats are of particular concern. Raisins, especially eaten in large quantities, can be toxic to dogs and cause kidney problems.
Chocolate is a big one. Penn’s Reineke said it contains a substance called theobromine — usually higher in dark chocolate than milk chocolate and highest in baker’s chocolate — that is toxic to dogs, and can lead to GI problems, pancreatitis, and even heart issues in high doses. (It is also toxic to cats, but cats tend not to be drawn to sweets.)
Another dangerous substance for pets is xylitol, a sugar substitute that appears in some sugar-free gums and can be deadly for dogs.
Pet owners also need to be on the lookout for pets ingesting other nonedible substances that can abound at Halloween. Pachtinger of VSEC said the Teal Pumpkin Project, a holiday movement in which people give out nonfood or allergen-free treats on Halloween, is great for kids with food allergies but can mean more objects like little toys or coins for pets to chow down on and get in trouble with if they get into unguarded goodie bags.
Cats usually aren’t as bad as dogs when it comes to eating stuff they shouldn’t. But VSEC advises that cats are often mesmerized by glow-sticks, which contain chemicals that can sicken felines. Some also contain glass, which can be dangerous.
Halloween presents other potentially dodgy situations, as well.
Mischief Night and Halloween are both times it’s best to not leave your pets outside unattended. That’s especially true for black cats that may unfortunately tempt less-than-humane tricksters.
Also mind pets around candles and candlelit jack-o-lanterns that can be knocked over and harm them or set fires.
Halloween’s spooky sounds, high-spirited antics, and strange sights can also be an issue. They will just go over some pets’ heads — and totally freak out others.
“I’ve had dogs who become so anxious, they have heart issues, or they run through the patio door,” Pachtinger said.
For some dogs and cats, it may be safer to put them in a room away from treat-or-trick traffic or your rowdy Halloween house party. That way, they won’t accidentally bolt away from home or get over stimulated and either get scared or unexpectedly snap at the kid next door, who, that night, looks like a bloody ax murderer.
And then there is the matter of those costumes.
Your pug may really relish dressing up as Lady Gaga. Fluffy the Maine Coon could be born to channel its inner werewolf. Are there Harvey Weinstein masks in small sizes?
Even so, the vets say watch out that the costumes aren’t a hazard — with strings that can get caught or buttons that can be chewed off and swallowed. Adults should supervise dressed-up animals at all times.
And remember, it should be fun — and not just for you. One cat-owning colleague recalled a dress-up occasion with her feline that did not go well. Punim, a kitty rather on the portly side, kept popping her outfit’s Velcro. She was not amused.
“She was glaring at us — like she would murder us in our sleep,” said her human companion, Arts & Lifestyle editor Molly Eichel.
As for Freddie, rest easy. The frankfurter fiasco is last Halloween’s indignity. Charlotte Sutton, our Health and Science editor, said no more costumes for the little tricolor guy.
“I felt so bad about his reaction last year, I’m just going to let him be his happy, corgi self,” she said.
OK, maybe a bandanna. Something festive. After all, it is Halloween.
Share your photos!
Does your child have the ultimate Halloween costume this year? We want to see it! We’re looking to collect photos of the spookiest and cutest costumes from the community that we’ll share in a photo gallery on Philly.com. To contribute a photo, just email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us where you’re from and what neighborhood you went trick or treating in this year. Happy Halloween.