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Pick the right Halloween costume for your cat or dog

When it comes to Halloween, the nation’s dogs have become real party animals. Just because they don’t eat the candy doesn’t mean they can’t dress up for Halloween – and many do. But how do you pick the right costume for your cat or dog, and make sure it's a good idea to dress them up in the first place?About 23 million people will dress up their pets this year, according to the National

When it comes to Halloween, the nation’s dogs have become real party animals. Just because they don’t eat the candy doesn’t mean they can’t dress up for Halloween – and many do. But how do you pick the right costume for your cat or dog, and make sure it's a good idea to dress them up in the first place?

About 23 million people will dress up their pets this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Americans will spend a scary amount of money on Halloween costumes and accessories for their dogs and cats. Sales are expected to hit a record $350-million dollars, up $30-million from last year.

“People tell us Halloween is one of the best holidays to celebrate and they want to include their furry friends in their celebrations,” said Kathy Grannis, NRF’s senior director of media relations.

And why not? It's adorable. Case in point, 14 of the most adorable pet costumes ever, as sent in by TODAY viewers.

The top pet costumes this year, according to the NRF's annual survey, are pumpkin, hot dog, devil, bumble bee and cat. Your “best friend” can also dress up like Miss Piggy, Winnie the Pooh or a Star Wars character. PetSmart even features a line of canine costumes by Martha Stewart Pets.

“Pets are part of the family, just like our human children, and people are finding out that the holiday is even more fun when they pets are also involved,” said Amanda Tingley, senior director of merchandising at PetSmart. “A lot of pet parents don’t have human children at home and this is a way for them to participate in the holiday, too.”

Most basic costumes are $15 to $20. Expect to shell out $25 or more for one that features a licensed character from Disney, the Muppets or Marvel Comics. Good news: discounts have already started, in some cases 50 percent off the regular price.

PetSmart said the shark costume is their most popular, but Superman, Batman and Spiderman are also big sellers.

Something new to look for this year: collars, leashes, harnesses and apparel with built-in LED lights to make dogs more visible when they go out trick-or-treating. Most do not have a Halloween theme, thankfully, so they can be used year-round.

Cats can also get in on the fun – at least long enough for you to take a few pictures – with a silly hat or accessories like wings or bow-tie collars. Complete the look with black and orange nail caps.

There are even costumes for guinea pigs. I’m not kidding! For less than $10, you can dress up your little fur ball to look like a bumble bee, ladybug or pumpkin.

Today

While Halloween costumes are cute, they can upset your pet.

“It’s really important to make sure you dog or cat isn’t stressed by the experience,” said animal trainer Mikkel Becker. “If they appear to be stressed or frightened, you need to take off the costume right away.”

Becker recommends costumes that are easy to put on and take off. She suggests looking for one that fastens with Velcro on the front and underneath. It’s less likely to scare your pet because you don’t have to slip it over their head or paws. Be sure to remove the costume if you aren’t able to supervise your pet, so they don’t hurt themselves.

In case you’re wondering, my dog Sam is going to be Superman this Halloween.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook andTwitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.