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With Halloween less than a week away, many pet owners have already purchased their animal’s costume. While these outfits can be fun and festive, the wrong outfit can pose dangers to your animal.

Although costumes are a fun way to interact with your pet, Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of General Surgery Services at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, stressed the importance of monitoring your pet in the clothing.

“Cute little costumes are fun to put on your animals while trick-or-treating, but when you are not watching your animals, make sure to take them off,” Stickney said.

He also explained that this also goes for sweaters, jackets or any other pet clothing. While it may seem like pets need clothes to stay warm, they can do more harm than good if the animal is not monitored.

“More than likely your animal does not need to keep clothing on to stay warm, even in the winter,” Stickney said. “If you have a house pet that only goes outside for 15-20 minutes to go to the bathroom, they will be more than fine without the clothing.”

Another thing Stickney recommended avoiding in pet costumes are dangly pieces of fabric, bells, or other small objects that the animal can chew off and swallow. These things can cause the pet to choke and possibly cause blockages in their intestinal track.

“Ribbons and bows are especially dangerous for cats,” Stickney added. “These are things cats love to play with and chew on, but if they swallow them it causes what is called a ‘linear foreign body.’ This requires emergency surgery to remove or it can ‘saw’ a hole in the intestines.”

Stickney also warned of a pet being allergic to the clothing material or the laundry detergent used to wash the costume. If an animal is allergic to a costume or clothing, Stickney said it may develop an itchy, red rash.

“The best thing to do is to take the outfit off of the pet and retire it,” Stickney said. “There is no reason to cause your pet pain and discomfort.”

Finally, Stickney stressed that it is important to make sure the outfits fit correctly. Anything that can wrap around the pets’ neck, paws, or legs can cause them to panic or injure themselves.

“This is especially common in small or young dogs as many costumes may not fit them correctly because of their size,” Stickney said. “The best way to select pet costumes or clothing is to buy them at a pet store where you can take your pet with you and try the outfit on them. That way you will know for sure that it not only fits correctly but that it also looks as adorable as you hoped.”