Holi has become popular all over the world, inspiring concerts and local 5K races where people are showered with bursts of color from water balloons or powdered compounds. The colors may look amazing, but their safety for dogs is questionable at the very least.
What exactly is in Holi colors?
Although ancient Holi colors were made from berries, flowers and spices, today’s liquid and powdered colors can contain lead oxide, aluminum bromide, mercury sulphite, copper sulphate and mold.
The colored water from burst balloons can be harmful if swallowed and the dyed powder may irritate skin and cause allergic reactions in dogs and people.
Some events claim to use only certified non-toxic colors that contain no heavy metals and are made from cornstarch, baking soda and FD&C (food-approved) dyes instead. However, they still recommend wearing glasses or goggles to protect your eyes and a bandana or mask to shield your nose and mouth, which is difficult to do for dogs.
Also, modern color manufacturing is poorly regulated and testing has found potentially toxic substances like malachite green, carcinogens, rhodamine and gentian violet in some of today’s Holi colors.
How can Holi affect your dog’s health?
Dogs like to lick their bodies and if they’re covered in colors, they’ll consume the ingredients in those dyes, which could lead to stomach or gastrointestinal issues. Also, breathing the dust from the colored powder may cause respiratory problems.
If your dog is accidentally colorized, use a mild dog shampoo to remove all of the dye. If there’s any skin irritation, take your dog to your veterinarian immediately. Watch for signs of poisoning: vomiting, loose stools, excessive drooling and behavioral changes.
If your dog has any of these symptoms, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline:
(888) 426-4435 and bring your dog to the nearest animal hospital.
Bottom line: Your safest bet is not to use any colors on your canine, even if the ingredients are listed as herbal and non-toxic.
How can you keep your dog safe during Holi?
If you live in an area where color events are popular, use these tips to help keep your dog and other pets protected.
- Teach children that it’s dangerous to put color on pets, particularly stray dogs who don’t have pet parents to protect or bathe them afterward.
- Keep pets inside during Holi. If your neighborhood has a lot of strays, ask a local shelter and family or friends if they can help you temporarily shelter a homeless dog or cat during the festivities.
- Post signs in your community advising people to keep colors off all animals.
What festivals are safe for dogs?
Holi isn’t dog-friendly but there are quite a few local and national events that are safe for dogs. Here are a few of our favorite four-legged festivals you and your best pal can enjoy together:
DockDogs®: Even if your dog can’t compete in this worldwide canine aquatics competition (yet), it’s still fun to bring him along and watch the high-flying antics.
Catherine’s Butterfly Party – Newtown, CT: A heartfelt pet adoption and free family festival featuring adoptable pets from 25 tristate (CT, NY and NJ) rescues, plus live birds of prey display, butterfly releases, K-9 demonstrations and much more.
Somerville Dog Festival – Somerville, MA: Close to Boston, this event gives you and your dog a chance to demo toys and training techniques, and compete in a costume contest.
Dog Day Festival – Nashville, TN: Features food, music and canine fun for the whole family with contests, demos and a giant shopping pavilion.
Bark in the Park – San Jose, CA: Everything dog, from contests and sport demos to canine water parks.
Dog Bowl – Frankenmuth, MI: This free family event features canine sports: disc, agility, luring and herding, plus a howl competition, silly pet tricks and racing. There’s even a Dog Bowl King and Queen.
Muttzanita – Manzanita, OR: An Olympic-style event with talent and fashion shows plus a canine parade.
Woofstock – Toronto, Canada: The largest North American outdoor dog fest features canine tricks, a Cirque Du Canine Stunt Show and Weiner/Pug racing. It’s even free!
Before bringing your socialized, well-behaved pal to any gathering, make sure it’s dog-friendly and features pet-safe activities both you and your canine can truly enjoy.