Google Trends data indicates an upward trend in searches for ‘dog costume’ in Australia over the past five years, peaking in October 2020.

RSPCA WA is asking people to pause and think before playing dress-up with their pet this Halloween.

While some pets will tolerate wearing a costume, and don’t even appear to notice, others find the experience really stressful.

RSPCA WA Executive Manager Animal and Enforcement Operations, Hannah Dreaver, said it’s up to owners to recognise signs their pet isn’t having a good time, and to avoid costumes which could put their furry mate in harm’s way.

“RSPCA WA certainly doesn’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but while humans might find dressing up enjoyable, for most animals being in a costume can be pretty worrying or scary.

“Our pets tell us how they’re feeling through body language, so it’s important we’re tuned into this and can act quickly if they’re uncomfortable,” Hannah said.

If your pet shows any signs of discomfort, like difficulty moving (including freezing), struggling to remove the costume, or signs of anxiety such as panting, remove their costume immediately.

Even pets who appear calm when wearing a costume should be supervised closely at all times and only wear their outfit for short periods. If you are unsure whether your pet tolerates wearing a costume or not, play it safe and avoid dressing your pet up.

“No animal should be put in danger or made to feel worried for the sake of a laugh or a cute picture,” Hannah said.

“It’s also good to remember that sweets and chocolate can make pets sick, so keep your ‘trick or treat’ haul well away from prying paws, and if your pet gets nervous with new people, consider leaving goodies in a bowl at the door and asking trick or treaters to pass without knocking or ringing the doorbell.”

5 Tips to help pet owners spot an unsafe constume

1. Avoid covering their head

Your furry friend needs to be able to eat and drink plenty of water, so steer clear costumes that may obstruct their mouth or breathing.

2. Eyes should be free and clear

Like us, our pets need to see where they’re going. Your pet’s eyes also give a good indication of how they are feeling. If their eyes are wide, chances are they are not having fun.

3. Chose the perfect fit

A tight costume can get hot quickly, and make it hard for your pet to breathe, causing distress. A costume that’s too loose could cause accidents or tripping.

4. Keep it simple

You want your furry friend to be able to move around and do things as they normally would, like walking, resting and going to the bathroom. It’s also best to avoid costumes with dangly, sparkly attachments, which your pet could pull off and swallow.

5. Say no to pins and pointy parts

Nobody likes being poked with anything sharp, and your furry mate is the same. Don’t choose costumes that require safety pins to keep them in place, or have sharp items hanging off them.