Halloween not just for kids, pet owners say

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Thursday, October 13, 2011
— Halloween is always a howling good time at the Dan Wilcox and Rich Fletcher home.

The Janesville couple have been dressing their pets in Halloween costumes for as long as they can remember.

"It's just a form of extending the fun to all members of the family. Being we don't have kids, it will always be a tradition we do," Wilcox said.

They are not alone.

This year, 14.7 percent of Americans are expected to dress up their pets for Halloween and spend $310 million on Halloween pet costumes, according to the National Retail Federation.

Wilcox and Fletcher's have a good time dressing their dogs in prisoner, bumble bee, ghost, witch, tennis player and break dancer costumes.

This year, their three rescue dogs—Vanderbilt, Olympia and Spartacus—won't disappoint trick-or-treaters arriving at their Ravine Street home.

Vanderbilt, a 2-year-old Pomeranian, will don pirate attire.

Olympia, a 2-year-old Australian shepherd/border collie mix, is going to rock out in punk rocker get-up.

Spartacus, a 7-year-old Catahoula leopard dog, will transform into a Roman warrior.

Fletcher and Wilcox estimated they've spent a couple hundred dollars over the years on pet costumes they often find at rummage sales, Goodwill, thrift shops or create themselves.

"One time, we saw a kid's flannel shirt. So I put Spartacus in bib overalls—because he's from the South and looks like a big hound dog—to create the look of a Blue Ridge Mountain person. He wore it, and it was a hit," he said.

Their dogs have been dressed as clowns with a Rudolph nose and big bow tie and as elderly church ladies with pearls, shawls, hats and gobs of lipstick.

"I couldn't figure out how to do a purse with candy," Wilcox said.

Wilcox said it takes a dog with a good temperament to tolerate wigs and hats.

"You just got to make sure there's a chin strap. That's the secret," he said.

Wilcox said owners can save money by recycling costumes and adding personal touches to store costumes.

"It helps make the holiday what it is," Wilcox said.

"How can you resist when something makes your animal look so cute? It's absolutely adorable."


During the week of Halloween last year, calls to the Pet Poison Helpline about dogs that ate chocolate increased by 209 percent over a typical week at the animal poison control center.

Chocolate poisoning poses a serious danger to dogs, especially at Halloween, according to a press release from veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline.

People who suspect their dog might have eaten chocolate should call a veterinarian immediately.

If left untreated, chocolate poisoning in dogs can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated heart rate or seizures, according to the release.

Other Halloween food hazards for pets include:

Candy wrappers—When pets eat candy, they sometimes eat the wrappers, too. Eating foil and cellophane wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased appetite, not defecating, straining to defecate or lethargy. X-rays might be necessary to diagnose the problem.

Raisins—Instead of candy, some health-minded households hand out mini boxes of raisins to trick-or-treaters. Very small amounts of raisins, grapes or currants are poisonous to dogs and can cause kidney failure. Any ingestion of raisins or grapes should be treated as potentially toxic and result in a call to a veterinarian. Only a small number of raisins can cause vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain and severe kidney failure. Raisins should be stored in containers far from the dog's reach.

Too much candy—Dogs that eat large amounts of sugary, high-fat candy can get pancreatitis, which is potentially fatal. It is inflammation of the pancreas and very painful. Pets might not show symptoms for one to four days. Warnings signs include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain and potentially, kidney failure or organ damage.

Last updated: 6:44 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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