Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Time for green cookies, green hats, green beer, and even a green river, but please, no green pets! In parades and on social media, animals sporting colored fur might seem festive on the surface, but just like most of us wouldn’t dye our bodies, the same shouldn’t be considered for our pets. We all enjoy celebrating the holidays with our four-legged family members, but dying an animal’s coat can have serious consequences for our fur babies.
Dyed fur can last for days, weeks, or even months after washing depending on the dye. Proven health risks of dying an animal’s fur include sensitivities or reactions to the chemicals (which often include ammonia and hydrogen peroxide). People who have made the mistake of dying their animal’s entire body risk getting dye into the mouth, eyes, ears, or genitals. Dogs who lick dye from their fur – even after washed – can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions, or even death, due to the chemicals that are toxic to both humans and animals. Of course, as anyone who has dyed their own hair knows, it doesn’t feel great. There tends to be some discomfort – that burning, rash-like, “get it off me now” feeling, which would surely be intensified for an animal who had no idea why this was happening.
There can also be psychological ramifications: restraining cats or dogs and putting them in discomfort at the hands of the people they most trust, leaving them looking altered (if they can see parts of the dye on themselves), smelling/tasting differently, and possible having even minor skin irritation can be severely distressing to animals. Think of things an animal does that would be disturbing to you if, as a human, you were forced to do (chew sticks, roll in dirt, huff unpleasant smells): now imagine how your animal feels being put in such an unnatural situation.
For small animals like rabbits or rodents, fur dying is an absolute no-no: they easily go into shock when submerged or even overexposed to water, and can even die.
What About So-Called “Safe” Dyes?
What about a non-toxic hair dye? According to this report of a dog becoming seriously ill from ingesting natural henna hair dye, chemical-free dye has hazards, as well. Even hair chalk that washes out, puts your pet at risk if they end up licking it off. Our cats and dogs are generous when it comes to licking themselves, especially if they know something’s on them or are experiencing any irritation.
Some people tout vegetable dye, or Kool-Aid as safe methods and we hate to be the fun police, but these can still irritate a pet, and in addition, attract unwanted attention from other animals! The last thing you need when trying to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is other dogs intrusively licking your dog or cat (which could lead to a fight). Vets agree that other animals can react differently to a brightly-colored pet, which can cause stress. In addition, pets can be allergic to coloring agents or dyes and this can cause serious irritation, fur loss, or other issues.
Celebrate the Safe Way With Your Pets
We want everyone to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, including your pets! So don’t let one too many green beverages cloud your judgment when it comes to your companion animal’s safety. If you really feel the need to dress your pet up for the occasion, consider strapping on a comfy shamrock costume, or a green T-shirt on your furry pal instead.
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