Dr Anna Foreman, Everypaw Pet Insurance’s in-house vet has spoken out about a viral TikTok video where a dog is seen to be wearing ‘false teeth for halloween’. The video has had over 2.6 million views; however, Dr. Foreman explains, putting false teeth in a pet’s mouth is incredibly dangerous.
What are your thoughts about the viral TikTok video of a pet with false teeth for Halloween? Are there risks, and if so, what are they?
Putting false teeth in a pet’s mouth is incredibly dangerous. False teeth are built for human teeth, and so the indents in them (which are supposed to be moulded to the real teeth) will not fit properly.
This means that the dentures can not only damage a dog’s real teeth, they will also not fit properly – this makes them a choking and foreign body hazard. The dog could choke on the teeth which can be fatal (like in a human), or they could swallow the teeth – the dentures are then very likely to obstruct their stomach opening into the intestines, or the intestines themselves.
In this case, the dog will need completely unnecessary, risky surgery to remove the false teeth. In worst case scenarios, dogs can suffer considerably and die from foreign body obstructions.
As well as being a danger, this dog is clearly distressed by having these false teeth put in its mouth. Although not struggling or crying in pain, the dog has its ears down and looks very subdued, and then actively spits out the dentures in the next clip. There is no reason to put false teeth in a dog’s mouth aside from cosmetic ones – this is simply not ethical.
What are some of the signs that a pet is uncomfortable or distressed in a costume?
If a pet is distressed in clothing, they will actively try and remove any items they are wearing with their teeth and/or paws. They may also roll around trying to free themselves from the clothing, or simply flop on the floor and refuse to move as with this TikTok video.
If they are unable to remove the items, or are so terrified they exhibit the ‘freeze’ rather than fight or flight response, then they may simply sit still with their ears and head down, trying to make themselves as small as possible.
More worryingly, some animals can become aggressive when put in a costume due to the distress they feel being in clothes. Looking at the ‘ladder of aggression’, they may start by licking their nose or lips, yawning and turning away, but this can turn quickly into growling, snapping and biting.
Are there any particular pet animals who may be more uncomfortable in costumes than others?
Cats tend to become the most distressed in costumes – dogs can sometimes be used to wearing coats and jumpers in the colder months, however cats will not. The only instance cats should wear ‘clothes’ is when having surgery, some cats may do better with a medical pet shirt rather than an Elizabethan cone to prevent them from licking at any wounds.
What are the consequences of a pet becoming distressed in a costume? Also, what risks could pets face in a Halloween costume?
If animals become stressed in a costume there is the risk that they may exhibit the ‘flight’ response and run away, which is particularly dangerous if they are outside.
Pets may also injure themselves trying to get out of clothing – for example, cats and dogs can get neckwear stuck in their mouth, which can cause jaw and tooth injuries, they can seriously injure a limb or their head if they get a leg stuck in a costume and lose their balance, and if an animal gets an outfit stuck over their head they may asphyxiate themselves if it is not a breathable material.
If an animal becomes extremely stressed, which can be the case with many cats and small pets, then they can suffer a heart attack or other fatal stress related event.
What are the safest materials for a pet to wear?
If a dog needs to wear a coat or jumper, it should be made of a soft fitting material if indoors or can be made of a waterproof material if being worn outside. The clothes should not be too tight (can lead to blood supply issues), or too loose (so the animal gets stuck in the item which can lead to an injury as above).
Otherwise a dog should only wear a costume if they are not exhibiting stress related behaviours when wearing it (see ladder of aggression note as above). Cats should never wear outfits – as mentioned above only a medical pet shirt is suitable for a cat to wear. There is no instance where dressing a cat or small pet up is ethical or in their best interest.
Halloween and pets: trick or treating
- Make sure that pets do not escape outside when opening the door, microchip details up to date etc.
- Make sure that if a dog is protective of the house, or shows signs of aggression to visitors/intruders, that accepting trick or treaters is approached very carefully, as injury to a third party from your animal can lead to police involvement.
- Careful not to let dogs have access to chocolate, sugar-free (containing xylitol) sweets or alcohol.
- If taking animals trick or treating this Halloween, make sure they are on a secure harness or lead and their microchip details are up to date in case they get lost. If they are a nervous dog or do not like the dark/have poor vision, then they should be left at home.