More and more pets joining the Halloween costume parade

Don't be surprised if you're greeted by a werewolf barking at your front door on Halloween. According to Alice Lerman, of Chicago's Barker and Meowsky: A Paw Firm, the Twilight movie series has influenced popular Halloween costumes for dogs. She adds, "Owls are also popular, and bat wings are a perennial favorite; they're easy, even for pets who don't like costumes."

Increasingly, dogs do get dressed up for Halloween. According to the American Pet Products Association 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey, 17 percent of all pets have some sort of Halloween wardrobe. Americans now shell out over $300 million on Halloween costumes and accessories for pets, according to the National Retail Foundation, a 40 percent increase from 2010.

Some neighborhoods swarm with little ones trekking from house to house on the big night. Along with adults, family dogs often tag along today.

"It's the way it should be," says Lerman. "After all, pets are a part of the family."

For purists who say dressing up a pet is undignified for the animal aren't alone. No doubt, many pets squirm at the idea. Some even appear to be humiliated while in costume. However, others enjoy being doted upon, particularly if they began wearing Halloween costumes as puppies or kittens.

"It's another way to include our pets in family activities," Lerman adds.

However, inclusion doesn't come without concerns. Dr. Mark Russak, of Berlin, CT, says he's worried about the costumed ghouls who appear at the front door on Halloween.

"Some pets may freak out, not understanding why people now look so strange," he says.

Russak recommends keeping pets in a secluded part of the house on Halloween night, such as the basement or a second bedroom with the door closed, with the radio or TV turned up to drown out the door bell. For predictably anxious pets, plug a pheromone diffuser into a wall to lower the level stress. Adaptil (for dogs) and Feliway (for cats) diffuse copies of naturally-occurring calming pheromones into the air.

Keeping pets away from the front door also insures they won't bolt for friendlier territory. Many pets are lost on Halloween.

"Take no chances, and microchip your pets," suggests Russak, immediate past president of the American Animal Hospital Association. "I think any dog or cat should be microchipped anyway, but if you haven't done it, now is a good time. It's not very expensive, and it's the only permanent form of ID. If you do microchip, be sure to also register so your contact information is associated with the chip."

More tips for keeping pets safe on Halloween:

1. Jack-o-lanterns: The aromas from scented candles can cause respiratory distress, even death, in birds, due to their sensitive respiratory systems. Pumpkins with candles inside can also be knocked over by playful pets, which could cause a house fire. Electric or battery-operated lights are far safer.

2. Candy: Hide any chocolate, which is toxic for dogs and cats. Other dangers lurking in goodie bags: gum or candy artificially sweetened with Xylitol. When trick-or-treating, don't let anyone give your dog treats unless you see the goodies. What if a well-meaning friend offers your pup a chocolate bar? Bring treats from home that you can give your pet along the route.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

(c) 2013 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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Sun archive: Dream Home

Dream Home takes readers into the houses of Baltimore area residents who have found their ideal home

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