Watch Tip: Pets in Costume

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Trish Roman-Aquilino

Watch Tip LogoWatch for pets out in costumes that constrict, restrict, or impair them in any way. Pets that are stressed out by their costume or the festivities should be removed to a quiet, safe place, and their costumes removed.  Set the example by making sure your own pet, if dressed in costume, is outfitted appropriately and is tolerating the ensemble well.

Halloween costumes on pets can be a hazard if care is not taken.

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many a pet parent, and there are few things that are more adorable than your furry friend dressed up as a pirate, a clown, or Yoda.

But just as you would exercise caution while dressing two-legged children, you want to exercise caution dressing up four-legged ones. Some tips to keep your pet safe:

  • If your pet is participating in a costume contest or some other type of Halloween event, definitely have them try on the costume beforehand – check to see if your pet shows any signs of being distressed or allergic to their costume. A distressed pet can chew or tear at their costume, and ingest pieces of it, making them sick. If they do not respond well, or have an allergic reaction, maybe a festive collar or bandanna would be a better choice.
  • Costumes should not restrict your pet’s ability to move, see, breathe, or hear.
  • Ensure that the costume does not have temptingly small, dangling, or easily chewed pieces that could be a choking hazard, especially if they are prone to chewing.
  • Make sure your pet’s costume fits appropriately, and will not get twisted on external objects or your pet, possibly leading to injury.
  • If your pet has never worn a costume, teach them to enjoy it, the way you would teach them to enjoy anything new – by getting them used to it a little bit at a time, reinforced with yummy treats. Put it on them for short increments of time, praising them and treating them to make it a positive experience.
  • Always supervise your pet at all times while they are in costume – if you will not be able to do so, remove the costume.
  • No matter what they are wearing, do not remove their ID. If something spooks them and they get away from you, they will absolutely need their identification, and make sure your contact information is up-to-date.
  • Know your pet: does he or she have the temperament, patience, and personality for getting dressed up and actively participating in the craziness of Halloween? Be realistic, and don’t put your pet through the stress of dressing up if they are not up for it – no matter how fun you think it would be.

In addition to the above costume safety tips, remember to always keep candy out of your pet’s reach, keep stressed pets safely crated or in a quiet room away from the hubbub, and make sure they do not have the opportunity to escape during the constant flow of trick-or-treaters at the door. Happy Howl-o-ween!

Watch Tip: Roaming Cats and Dogs

Posted on October 16th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoThe single most important factor contributing to accidental injury or death of companion animals is roaming. If a dog or cat is roaming, it is likely to encounter a serious problem sooner or later. Vehicle traffic, wild predators, deranged persons and many other unseen dangers are out there. If your neighbor allows a pet to roam continually, say something. You may save a life.

Door hangers make it easy to send a life-saving message

Sunbear Squad now has free “Loose Dog Dangers” and “Loose Cat Dangers” door hangers available for downloading. These files when printed and cut out will enable you to communicate simply and quickly with others in your neighborhood and community. The dog and cat door hangers list the many dangers that a roaming pet may encounter. For the uninformed, the list may be a powerful deterrent.

Download door hanger files here.

Watch Tip: Physical Punishment

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by Anna Nirva


Watch for physical punishment of cats, dogs and other helpless companion animals, such as swatting, whipping, kicking, beating, and throwing. Frustrated owners who don’t know how to train their animals lose their tempers and become violent. Some frightened animals will defend themselves with teeth and claws, some will escalate their unwanted behavior, some will panic and defecate, and others will utterly collapse in terror. They may be traumatized for life. Please intervene to calm the situation or call law enforcement immediately.

Excessive physical punishment teaches the pet that his owner is dangerous

The pet likely has no idea why his beloved owner turned on him. His protector is suddenly crazed, dangerous, and hurtful—the very opposite of a protector. His owner is unpredictable and can’t be trusted. The pet might extend that distrust to all people, or all men, or all children. The pet might begin to see the world as a dangerous place because he doesn’t have a protector anymore. He must fend for himself.

A puppy waited in the back seat of a sedan in a Colorado Walmart parking lot for his family to return, worried. Finally he saw them. He watched them approach and grew more fearful by the moment. He trembled and circled uneasily on the seat. He started to whine. Finally he defecated in panic. He tried to crawl under the seat. The door opened and his owner picked him up by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the ground while still gripping his neck, shouting obscenities. Again the puppy was picked up and thrown to the ground, and again and again. The puppy flung his head from side to side, trying to bite the big hand that held him by the neck. The family watched unhappily.

Two woman ran up, screaming at the abuser to stop. He stopped and held his dirty trembling puppy, breathing hard, red-faced. He shouted in frustration that he beat his puppy because “he always shits in my car!” (Very understandable!) He told his family to get in the car with the puppy and they drove away fast. But the women got the license plate number and reported the incident to police, who promised to follow up.

I worry about the fate of this dog today and about the fate of many thousands of dogs and cats treated similarly. If they end up in municipal pounds, their lives of terror and neglect will finally end in the “euthanasia hold,” a method of restraining a struggling animal that shelter workers use to reduce the likelihood of being bitten.

Keep in mind that frustrated pet owners beating their animals are likely not criminal-minded individuals but they are out of control and could be dangerous to you as well as the pet. Use all care when approaching them or call 9-1-1. Animal abuse is a felony or misdemeanor in all 50 states.

Watch Tip: Contaminated Water

Posted on October 2nd, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoWatch out for standing water—don’t let your dogs and cats drink it, especially young and baby pets or pets with compromised immune systems. Avoid puddles: antifreeze, ice melt chemicals, cleaners can poison your pet. Stay away from livestock tanks and buckets. Don’t let dogs swim in unknown ponds or streams. Be proactive and bring fresh water from home for both of you when visiting a dog park or hiking trail because algae, parasites and bacteria may be present.  Many of the same water-borne diseases affect people too.

Water can carry diseases that affect pets, domestic animals, wildlife, and people too!

Even when the water looks clean, don’t trust it. The cleanest streams tumbling down polished rocks can carry tiny protozoa like Giardia, Leptospira or Campylobacter, which infects companion animals, domestic animals, wildlife and people. These organisms may live for long periods in certain conditions. Many animals and people become carriers, never showing signs of illness while others get diarrhea and other symptoms, sometimes extreme.

Don’t trust water from wherever animals congregate, unless you have good reason to. Those invisible organisms find their way from old feces in the grass to running paws to water containers, and infected animals might never show a sign of illness. But the very young, old, or already-compromised cat or dog might become deathly ill or could develop dangerous complications.

Always wash your hands with soap after petting or handling unknown animals to reduce transmission of diseases to your pets or your human family. Be sure to disinfect your vehicle or home surfaces if you have rescued or helped a stray animal; a solution of tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water will likely kill those organisms on surfaces. Wash your clothes too!