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Pets and Halloween

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  Photo is property of Party City

Many of us dress up, buy candy, and take our children trick-or-treating.  But what about the four-legged family members?  With our weather, South Florida is prime Doggy Door-to-Door fun.

For the most part, Halloween can only be celebrated with our dogs.  I'm sure that many of you, like me, have at least one cat that hides every time there is a knock on the door.  So unless you have one of those "pet strollers" in which you can safely walk around with your kitty - or if your cat walks on a leash with a harness - they're out of the game.  Even the most socialized and friendly cat can get scared by all the shenanigans (did I just say shenanigans?  How old am I?!) that go on during Halloween: eggings, toilet-papering, ding-dong-and-dash, and a general public that is suddenly on one massive sugar rush.  So please, for their sanity, leave the kitties at home, inside.

I wouldn't suggest bringing a bird, either.  Although your cockatiel, parrot, lovebird, or macaw may usually enjoy outings, Halloween is not a good night for such a thing.  Like cats, something sudden could scare them into hurting themselves or someone else.  Most small animals are out, too.  Rabbits and Guinea Pigs also get frightened; a hamster or gerbil, however, could come out in a hamster ball.  Ferrets are generally fearless, so you could probably bring them out, but not without a harness and leash, just in case.  And if you didn't already figure it out, your Betta (Siamese Fighting Fish) probably wouldn't enjoy being sloshed around in its' bowl all night.

This leaves us with our usual outdoor friend, the dog.  Most of them are more than happy to walk around with the family for hours.  But not all dogs are suited for this.  Here are some tips to make this holiday safer for you, your pet, and those around you:

First, if your dog has protective tendancies, or if he tends to chase things like bicycles, other dogs, joggers, or smaller animals, then you should not bring your dog with you.  With so many children of differing ages out, your pet may mistake a child for a threat. 

Don't forget that many children either forget to or have never been taught to ask before petting a dog.  If you think a child is getting ready to touch your furry friend, assess his mood and make sure that he's not afraid.  If your dog starts to shy away or even growl, it's time to bring Spot home.

Also, if you have a costume for your dog, keep in mind that many dogs with double coats (such as Huskies, Terriers, and Golden Retrievers) use that extra layer to keep cooler air near their skin; a costume hinders this process, and your dog could get overheated, even during the evening hours.  If you insist on your pet wearing the costume, give them breaks.  For instance, ten minutes on and ten minutes off.  Bring water with you, and if you'd like to make it Halloween-themed,use a plastic Pumpkin candy collector as a water dish. Again, if your dog's normal behavior suddenly changes, it's time for them to go home.

Lastly, make sure that you have the proper tags on your dog (or any animal you bring out).  Even though Halloween isn't the worst holiday for pets (Independance Day is - more pets wind up in shelters the week after July 4th than any other day of the year) many pets get lost in the confusion.  Shouting children, constant knocking and doorbell ringing, and the sounds of many voices outside can stress out any pet, so even if you're staying at home, keep a closer eye on your four-legged family members than usual.  And make sure they have the proper identification.  Without it, you could forever lose your pet.

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