CHICAGO, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- My wife wants to dress our dogs up in costumes for Halloween.
I'm not crazy about the idea although the 5-year-old next door will probably howl with delight at the sight of a doggy vampire and a little devil dog showing up for trick-or-treat.
Judging from the number of pet costume contests touted on the Internet this year, adult neighbors might get a kick out of it, too.
After all, Halloween has morphed in a pseudo-U.S. holiday in which adults get to dress up and cut loose. It's second only to Christmas as the favorite for many -- so why not let the dogs join in the fun.
There are a few caveats, however, the main one being keeping the animals safe.
If one of the dogs somehow got hold of some chocolate goodies (or candy wrappers), it could be fatal. Cocoa contains theobromine, which is poisonous to canines.
"Owners should never feed their pets human chocolate," Sean Wensely, senior veterinary surgeon for the PDSA charity in the U.K., told UIA Insurance News. "Not only is it toxic for them, but the high sugar content isn't good for their waistline or teeth."
Dark chocolate, bittersweet and baking chocolate is the worst, and chocolate with raisins could be a tasty but deadly combination.
Symptoms of poisoning -- vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, spasms, trembling and restlessness -- can quickly worsen if the animal is not treated by a vet.
Also, glow sticks, glow jewelry and body paint should be kept away from dogs and cats. Cats seem to like anything that glows.
Some experts recommend keeping pets in a safe, quiet room on Halloween so they won't be spooked by all the strange looking, small, noisy, costumed visitors ringing the doorbell.
Diet products like gum, hard candies and breath mints containing the artificial sweetener xylitol should also be kept away from dogs because it can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and liver damage.
Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags in case it gets out among the trick-or-treaters.
Halloween, traditionally, is an especially rough night for black cats, so keep them inside.
Jacques Von Lunen, writing for The Oregonian, warns that candles should never be left lit in unattended jack-o-lanterns, and pets should not be allowed to munch on a rotted leftover pumpkin.
He advises pet owners who want to dress their animals up for Halloween to try the costume on them several times so they can get used to it and make sure it won't hinder their vision or movement. Never leave a costumed pet unattended.
If, Buddy or Shiloh is not willing to don the costume -- one of my dogs doesn't like anything on his head -- forget about it and just tie a colorful bandana around its neck.
We still have a yellow-hooded rain slicker that Barkley the terrier refuses to wear even though he doesn't like rain and a helmet-styled winter hat with ear holes was chewed up long ago.
If a "Count Barkula" or "Little Devil Dog" show up at your door on Halloween make sure to have a few dog treats on hand so they don't go away empty jawed.
For the more technologically blessed, there's even an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch app called CU-PetHealth available at the iTunes store that allows pet owners to track their animal's daily caloric intake to fight obesity.
The $3.99 app was developed by seven Cornell University students in their computer science class with medical information provided by a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.