Do’s and Don’ts for Dressing Up Pets in Costumes

If you’re planning on dressing up a pet in a costume this year, but don’t know if that’s “weird,” there’s good news. You won’t be the only one looking at animal garb this Halloween. According to research from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights, 18 percent of all people who plan to celebrate Halloween in some capacity will be putting their pet in a costume. Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist also highlighted this part of the survey. “One of the biggest trends this year is the growth of spending on pet costumes. Out of the 31.3 million Americans planning to dress their pets in costumes, millennials (25-34) are most likely to dress up their pets, the highest we have seen in the history of our surveys.”

 

The Practice has Its Critics

Despite its popularity, a lot of people say you should never dress up a pet. If you look at the fine print, most of these warnings include a contextual judgment about exploiting pets for entertainment and then naming issues that seem mostly avoidable if you’re careful. Nothing is ever 100% safe, right? We’re not going to try to tell every pet owner how safe they need to be with their pets, but we do think you should know what to keep an eye on if you plan to put a pet in costume this Halloween.

 

Three Steps for Dressing Up a Pet in Costume

 

  1. Know Your Pet.

A few animals seem to really enjoy their costumes and many animals are willing to tolerate them, but more than a few absolutely hate wearing anything other than their own coats of fur. Especially if we’re including cats in the discussion. You may not truly know how your pet will react until you give it a try, but you can probably make an educated guess. If you have a generally pliable and agreeable animal for a pet, there’s a better chance for success. Animals that are more finicky, standoffish, and/or easily overstimulated are more likely to throw a fit. Along with not subjecting your pet to something they obviously hate, what you really need to watch for is the “silent suffer”—who tries to hide their discomfort from you.

 

  1. Use Safe Pet Costumes.

Again, this goes double for the silent sufferer, but you want to be extra mindful about how your pet is carrying the costume on their body and in what ways they can get at the costume itself. Make sure the material is sufficiently soft or otherwise isn’t likely to hurt the animal’s skin. Make sure the costume isn’t so thick and insulating that it causes overheating. Make sure there aren’t buttons or other items that can be chewed, swallowed, and/or choked on. Make sure the pet’s range of motion isn’t restricted and that there are no facial impediments especially around the eyes.

 

  1. Don’t Make it a Habit.

The most common problem with pet costumes is the skin irritation, but we’ve found that this isn’t as much of a concern when you’re only putting the pet into a costume for a few hours, once or twice a year. (January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day.) To be fair, we do know pet owners who keep their animals in clothes for much of the winter and claim their animals appreciate the extra insulation. But it can be especially problematic to continue the practice into the warmer months in which overheating becomes a much bigger risk.

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Should You Be Concerned about the Dog Flu?

Dog flu, or canine influenza, is a rare but life-threatening condition for vulnerable dogs. Cases of dog flu tend to flare up in clusters every few years. Most recently, there was an outbreak this year in Michigan that spread to more than 100 affected dogs. Fortunately, so long as you take the necessary precautions, there’s really no reason to be worried. Here is what we think you should know about protecting your pet dog from the flu.

 

Get Your Dog Vaccinated

The best thing you can do is to get your dog vaccinated. One of the reasons why dog flu is relatively rare is because effective vaccinations exist and because most animal travel requires vaccinations. This is one of the things the veterinarian should do when you bring the dog in to get a health certificate. Even if the dog isn’t coming along for the adventure, be sure to get the dog vaccinated if you plan on boarding the pet. And this isn’t the only thing to watch out for. Being around large numbers of dogs in a confined space is a big risk factor. Being around large numbers of animals from high-risk species (especially birds and horses) is another risk factor. Think twice about traveling to a place that’s known to have an active outbreak of dog flu. Finally, very young, older, and snub-nosed breeds are also more susceptible to getting canine influenza.

It’s never a bad idea to get your dog vaccinated, but especially if they fall into one of these groups, we strongly recommend it.

 

Don’t Wait Too Long to Visit the Vet

Just as it is with humans, it is very rare but not impossible for a dog to contract the flu even after getting vaccinated. The virus may mutate, and the vaccine may not be effective against the new strain. And just like humans, it can be hard to diagnose the flu at first. Canine influenza and kennel cough are virtually impossible to tell apart at first. While most strains tend to be fatal for dogs in only about 10 percent of cases, this may not be true for the next mutation, it may not be true if your dog is vulnerable, and it may not be true if you ignore the problem and assume it will eventually go away on its own.

Again, you don’t need to be overly worried, so long as you’re proactive about getting the vaccine and following up if any symptoms do emerge.

 

Basic Information about Canine Influenza

More than just the steps to protect your particularly beloved pet, you might also be interested in some of the global concerns about canine influenza. Until relatively recently, many experts thought that dogs were largely resistant to the flu. And it’s true that the dog flu is less common than avian, equine, and even human influenza. But since 2004 in which a group of greyhounds became infected at a Florida racetrack, there have been more outbreaks and many now question just how far this resistance extends. Moreover, the increasing frequency of outbreaks gives additional credence to the notion that dogs are “mixing vessels.” Species that serve as “mixing vessels” are species that can contract, mutate, and then pass on new influenza strains to other species, while suffering relatively little harm to their own species.

So, along with protecting your own pet, getting dogs vaccinated and avoiding high-risk environments can help protect your dog, your family, other people, and other species from the next pandemic.

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Woman Finds Perfect Pet Dog by Expanding Search Area

There may be several things you’re looking for in a new pet. Some people need a hypoallergenic pet. Some people are looking for a pet of a certain size and temperament. Some people need a pet that will get along with other animals. Some people prefer the convenience of a one-year-old dog straight out of obedience school. Others wouldn’t dream of missing out on the cuteness and fiercely loyal bond of having a young kitten or puppy around the house. So, while there are a lot of pets out there waiting to be adopted, this doesn’t mean you can find the right pet for your family at just any animal shelter or pet store. Finding the perfect pet may require expanding the search beyond your immediate area.

Ingrid Boveda, a resident of Salt Lake City, found her perfect pet 1,300 miles away at an animal shelter in the small town of Houston, Missouri. Ingrid was looking for a pet that had a similar look and temperament as her other dog, a sweet but aging Shar Pei Lab named Hooch. She recalls it was her twin brother who first turned her on to the charms of the Shar Pei Lab: “The first thing I noticed was the unique combination of facial features, but what drew me to them the most was Hooch’s personality. Hooch was very mellow (even though he was just barely an adult dog) and exceptionally sweet.” When Ingrid eventually inherited Hooch from her brother, she grew even fonder of the dog. “He had his own little spin on all the typical things dogs did. For example, he wouldn’t chew or tear up my house. He’d just ‘redecorate,’ or move certain household items from one area to another, usually in protest of not getting enough attention.”

 

Turner has been settling into his new home quite nicely since landing in Salt Lake City.

Be Diligent in Researching the Pet Organization
The idea for getting a new pet came about naturally enough. “Hooch is getting older,” Ingrid explains, “and although still sweet and mellow, he’s starting to decline in terms of health. I then happened to google ‘Shar Pei lab’ because it never occurred to me to wonder whether Hooch looked like the ‘typical’ Shar Pei lab. I came upon Turner (then Luke), another Shar Pei lab waiting for his forever home in a nonprofit shelter in Missouri.”

While finding Turner came about easily enough, the actual decision and adoption plan were a little more involved. She had recently moved in with her boyfriend Paul. “The tradeoff to looking far and wide for the dog is that you often don’t get to meet them before adopting them, so in that case, Paul and I had chatted on the phone with Turner’s shelter and asked about his temperament, potential problem behaviors, health, and why he was at the shelter.”

More than just asking after the pet, Ingrid learned that “some breeder websites are actually scams where you never actually get a dog, and that’s pretty sad, so maybe in those cases I would go with a more local-ish breeder where I can see the puppies as well as their paperwork.”

 

Get a Referral—and Health Travel Certification—from the Pet Source
Whether it’s an animal shelter or breeder, once you’ve done your research, it’s good to know that, before getting on a plane, your pet will be directed examined by a veterinary professional who knows the animal’s history. The shelter or breeder may also have local connections for animal delivery services that you can use.

There is also likely to be a network of vets and animal delivery services with which the shelter or breeder has a relationship. “The shelter in Houston had recommended the pet delivery service that we chose. The choice seemed more driven by what was available in the area and when they would be able to transport Turner.”

These local connections can be especially helpful when the pet might otherwise be restricted from air travel. For example, because Turner is part Shar Pei, he is considered a “snub-nosed” dog and required specific temperatures to fly safely. “This certainly presents an added inconvenience when compared to getting a dog locally,” Boveda allows, “though we also knew that Turner was up for adoption and there was no other Shar Pei lab locally that needed their forever home. So we waited a couple of weeks so that Turner could get his necessary medical clearing and for the weather to be just right.”

 

Turner hanging out with his new brother and purebred Shar Pei, Wiggles!

Do Your Homework, But Be Prepared to Take a Leap of Faith
In the end, Ingrid was more worried about her future with her new pet than the logistics of pet travel. “Paul and I were for sure antsy in the week to days leading up to Turner’s arrival. We talked a lot about how he might get along with Hooch, and shared our worries about the possibility that he was going to be a difficult dog, or just a dog that wasn’t compatible with our lifestyle. My nerves the day he arrived were more the nervous jitters and excitement of getting a new dog. I did wonder what it must be like for Turner to get put on a plane and being soon to meet his new parents. So I did feel this want to make sure he’d know as soon as he saw us that the journey was going to be worth it.” Ultimately, the pickup experience was joyous and uneventful. It helps that even amidst construction at the SLC International Airport, there’s clear signage indicating the turnoff at 3700 W for the airport cargo facility area.

When asked to reflect on what she learned from the experience, Ingrid suggests being patient and looking outside the county or even the state. “This is one of those longer term commitments that affects your travel and social plans…so it pays to wait for the right dog. Turner was sort of an impulsive decision and although we don’t regret it, we’ve reflected on it since and feel like the vetting (get it?) process shouldn’t be rushed.” Still, even after doing their homework, Ingrid confesses that she and Paul were scared they would adopt a disaster. It all turned out well in the end. “We’re happy to say that Turner, like his counterpart Hooch, is his own version of sweetness.”

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Pet Travel Advice: Dogs in Checked Baggage vs Cargo

Trying to decide the best way to travel with your pet? We provide detailed information about Airline Policies including dogs in checked baggage and cargo travel. This includes specific programs and policies available from each carrier. This airline policy resource will help guide you through the nitty-gritty details for each airline. You can also check out our Airport Guide to see if there are additional travel restrictions placed on pets at your travel destination.

Fewer airlines are offering checked baggage for pet travel, but many passengers flying out of major airports still have both options available to them. With this in mind, we also wanted to offer some general advice for people who are trying to make the best choice between checked baggage and cargo for their dog or other pets.

 

Pet Safety for Dogs in Checked Baggage

This is the most compelling factor for many pet owners, and traveling in cargo is widely considered a safer option overall. To be clear, pets end up traveling in the cargo hold, regardless of whether they are traveling as cargo or checked baggage. The difference is in the holding and shipping protocols that are used. Pets traveling as checked baggage must be on the same flight as the accompanying passenger. Delays can meet your pet is waiting on the tarmac with the rest of the checked baggage.

So long as you and the airline follow all the relevant procedures, healthy animals should be fine. Nevertheless, some airlines have determined the logistics and risks that come with pets traveling as checked baggage were simply too high. In contrast, the tracking system and pet care services available with cargo travel tend to be more reliable and more flexible to your pet’s needs. It can be difficult for pet owners to drop their animal off at the airport cargo center long before the flight, but this route is a safer bet to guarantee your animal doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.

 

Pet Travel Costs

This is probably the most common reason to travel with dogs in checked baggage. Checked baggage fees for pets are typically around $200 and is viewed as an add-on service to the passenger ticket. To fly a pet as cargo, the ticket price is more likely to resemble that of a human passenger with dynamic pricing. In fact, you’ll likely be able to travel for less than your pet. Pet travel fares can surpass $1,000.

Again, the upside with cargo travel is pet safety and flexibility. Your pet should receive more direct attention in designated pet care areas. They won’t need to be sent out to the tarmac until the last minute, and if there is a long delay they can be sent back to the cargo pet care center.

 

Travel and Schedule Planning

The different options can be more or less convenient depending on the passenger’s travel plans. Flying a pet in cargo means the animal can fly when it’s safest for them, not when it’s convenient or mandated by the passenger’s itinerary. On the other hand, this means additional transportation may need to be arranged for the pet to be dropped off and picked up at the airport. In this sense, if it’s just you and your pet, the checked baggage option will likely be a more convenient option for your travel schedule.

Despite the fact that cargo travel is marginally safer, if you have an animal that’s healthy and has done well with travel in the past, if you want a pet to go on this adventure with you, and if you’re working within a tight travel budget, dogs in checked baggage may be the right choice after all.

 

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How to Manage Other Passengers with Pet Allergies

Some of the worst stories we hear about pet travel have to do with running into people who have severe pet allergies. The majority of the time, the affected person will leave their seat and find a flight attendant. Worse yet are people who willingly take their frustration out on you, rather than the airline who sold the ticket to you and your pet. In the heat of the moment, your immediate reaction should be to stay calm and to alert a member of the flight crew as soon as possible. Here  is what else you might consider to avoid and deal with passengers with pet allergies.

 

What to Expect from the Airline

In the case of service animals and emotional support animals, the airline may be legally required to accommodate the animal as a necessary part of the passenger’s travel support. Regardless, even regular pet owners will find that if the airline accepted their pet reservation, they will find a way to accommodate the pet. That’s assuming all the relevant rules and guidelines for airline pet travel are followed.

In almost every case, pets are accommodated by reseating passengers with allergies in a different part of the plane. If the airline and flight crew are really on their game, they’ll identify any passenger traveling with a pet on that flight and they’ll double check with other passengers in nearby rows to identify potential problems before they occur. Even so, there’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of a passenger having an allergic reaction, if only because it’s possible that people (and children especially) discover their pet allergy during the flight.

 

What the Science Says about Pet Allergies

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 10 percent of the American population is allergic to pets. Contrary to popular opinion, pet fur is not especially allergic. Rather, it’s the saliva, urine, and especially dried flakes of skin (dander) that cause an allergic reaction. Dander can stay allergic for weeks after it’s been shed. So waving a favorite cat toy in the air may be more problematic than the animal itself.

Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. Nevertheless, problems with dog allergies are more common because dog owners are about 3.5 times more likely than cat owners to travel with their pet. Of course, this statistic doesn’t matter to cat owners who buck the idea that it’s only dog owners who love to travel. These people will still find most airlines accommodate their cat, but we do recommend that cat owners be a little more proactive in these situations. Help flag down the flight attendant and be willing to offer to change seats.

 

Bonus Tips: Carrier Covers

If you want to be extra cautious and considerate, brush and groom your pet before travel. If you’re like us, you’ll give the pet a quick brushing but will be too busy to really do a thorough job. You might also drape a cover over the carrier. This will help keep dander and saliva in the carrier as much as possible, while also helping the pet stay calm from noises and distractions that may set them on edge. This advice applies to dogs, but it goes double for cats. Not only are more people allergic, but cats are more likely to get anxious by being overstimulated.

Again, keep favorite toys and other pet items in the carrier. You might also think about bringing along an antihistamine to offer nearby passengers who have only mild pet allergies. But really, the best bet is to rely on the airline to reseat affected passengers.

 

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Dogs in Cars: Going on a Long Road Trip with a Beloved Pet

While air travel is our bread-and-butter, Dogs on Planes loves talking about pretty much anything related to pet travel. One big thing that sticks out to us: While people tend to overestimate the hassles and risks that come with flying with a dog, we find that they tend to underestimate these same hassles and risks when going on a long road trip. We wanted to take a moment and address potential problems dog owners face. We’ll also provide tips to plan for going on a road trip with a dog in the best and worst-case scenarios.

 

The Golden Rule for Going on a Road Trip with a Dog

As with most any type of pet travel, the golden rule is to know the habits and temperament of your dog. Is he or she typically a chill animal? Does he or she normally do well with traveling? When it comes to air travel, it gets a little pricey to go a trial run. The exact opposite is true with car rides. Even for dogs that are used to car rides, if anything, step up the number of places for which you bring along your dog. No reason to go crazy or try to take them someplace they don’t belong, but don’t assume that the best plan is to take a break from car rides because the dog will get their full on the road trip.

 

Tips for Making Iffy Dogs Car-Happy Travelers

Even if you know this golden rule, there’s not always a clear-cut yes or no answer. Many dogs are reasonably well-behaved in most situations, even though getting in the car isn’t their favorite thing. One of the most common reasons that dogs aren’t thrilled by car rides is that they associate the car with going to the vet. This is something that’s easy to change especially for dogs that aren’t too old and set in their ways. Take them to the dog park. Take them to the pet store with you for their next toy or treat. Take them to see friends, family members or neighbors. Take them on doggy playdates if they like other dogs. Take them to the lake if they like to swim. Give them plenty of affection and create a positive experience.

 

General Tips for Road-Tripping with Your Dog

  • Make sure the vehicle is in good working order. And not just the engine, but the air conditioning and heater as well. Especially if you expect to need it.
  • Take lots of potty breaks. Every 4-6 hours is ideal. More than 8-12 hours and the pet’s urological health is bound to suffer. Apart from the animal’s comfort level, you definitely don’t want to deal with a urinary tract infection while traveling.
  • Bathroom breaks aren’t the only reason to make frequent stops. Just like humans, there are few things better for relaxation than plenty of exercise. Less commonly, an anxious or low-energy dog may curl up in one spot for long periods of time. Encourage the dog to run around to calm down and to prevent the rare blood clot.
  • Small, frequent snacks are usually the best bet for feeding on a road trip. The dog shouldn’t go hungry, but a full belly in a cramped space is going to make it that much harder for the dog to get comfortable. It can also lead to doggy vomit.
  • Get a micro-chip. Even if your dog always responds to voice commands. Even if your dog sticks by your side all the time. There’s simply too much potential for a dog to get spooked in an unfamiliar setting and less chance they will be able to find their way back to you if separated.
  • Windows can be tricky. Roll them down, and the dog gets to see and smell the outside world. It’s a little different when you’re at highway speeds and the slightest piece of debris can cause serious harm. We roll our windows down when we’re not on the highway and try to leave them barely cracked when we are on the highway.

 

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