The popular demand to spoil our pets has become a booming market. In fact, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that Americans spend more than $60 billion a year on products for Fido and Fluffy. Yes, that is billions with a "B". According to the APPA, that’s an increase from the $29.5 billion pet owners spent more than 10 years ago.
One reason for the increase: pet parties. In practice, I have countless clients who love to show me photos of the party they planned for their beloved fur baby. Are you one of the many who’ve lavished your pet with a celebration that rivals a teenager’s Sweet 16? If not, grab a party hat and take notes; the latest pet trend is celebrating your critters in style.
What has changed?
No longer are we seeing the days of just buying some paper plates and paper party hats and giving our dog or cat a bowl of ice cream in the kitchen. This is the old standard. The manner in which pet owners are celebrating their pet's birthday is definitely evolving. Today, it is not uncommon for a pet owner to spend upward of $1,000 to host a party at a particular venue with decorations, pet specific treats, a cake, and goodie bags for all of the 4-legged guests that attend.
The concept has become a business in itself, with pet party planners making themselves readily available to organize pet birthdays or even puppy or kitten “showers”—much like a typical baby shower. Say what!
This all comes with a price of course. There are specific companies that will plan your furry companion's special day for around $250. This usually does not include expenses for supplies, games, invitations, the venue, treats, gifts, etc. Many will send out custom invitations and even track the RSVPs for you. These companies will also offer services for additional costs that could include having someone there to greet and care for all the attendies so you can enjoy the party. Some will even clean up once the party is over.
Pet Party Do's
Plan your menu wisely: Make sure that your canine guests don’t have access to human food, especially foods that may be toxic, such as grapes, raisins, chocolate and caffeine. In addition, some dogs have food allergies and/or sensitivity to rich “party” foods such as vanilla ice cream. Ask your invitees ahead of time if there are any food issues you should be aware of and plan for simpler indulgences that won’t cause upset tummies.
Bring enough water and bowls to quench thirst: If activities are planned for your guests, have plenty of fresh water available to quench thirsty mouths. Dogs can suffer from dehydration and overheating, too. Be extra cautious of parties that are outside during the summer months when temperatures rise. Dogs can get overheated very quickly. An indoor party may be more suitable both 2-legged and 4-legged guests.
Choose a theme: Looking to add a little more excitement to the party? Come up with a theme that both owners and pets can participate in, such as a luau, Mardi Gras, superhero, or Disney. Decorations can be found on discount party Web sites.
Invite “pre-approved” friends only: When throwing a party for a group of dogs, it’s wise to invite dogs that are already familiar with one another. This is not the right time to introduce new dogs to a group that will be presented with treats, toys and a high level of excitement. Things such as food can cause a disagreement between dogs and we don't want anything to dampen the festivities. In addition, plenty of supervision by attending pet owners is required.
Pet Party Don'ts
Don't forget the first aid kit: Let's be honest, dogs will be dogs and no matter how well we plan out the activities or how well we supervise the party, accidents can happen. It is beneficial to have a first aid kit on hand to handle minor injuries that may happen during the party. There are plenty of places online to purchase pre-made first aid kits. It is also a great idea to know where the closet Veterinary Hospital is located in the event one of the dogs attending the party needs medical attention.
Don't let rough play escalate: Rough play happens. At a dog party, overstimulation can cause a pup to take it too far. Keep an eye on guests as they play and do not be afraid to ask a pet parent to pull their dog away for breaks as needed. Pay close attention to every dog's behavior. There are plenty of places you can learn about different behavior cues that could indicate a dog is uncomfortable in a situation or may be exhibiting aggressive behavior. Educate yourself. Preventing a problem is much easier that dealing with it once it has already happened.
Don't forget about #1 and #2: Just like you and I, dogs will need use the bathroom after eating delicious treats or drinking a bunch of water. Be sure that you have a designated place for the dogs to relieve themselves that is isolated away from the party. Nobody wants to smell #2 while they are at the party. You can purchase pet waste supplies online. Keep them handy, you will need it.
It’s important to remember that our pets can easily become overwhelmed and stressed by too much activity and stimulation. We want this to be a positive experience for everyone at the party. One more thing: Don’t forget to bring your camera. Moments like this can be enjoyed for a lifetime!
Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM