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Holiday Stress And Pets

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! This is a pretty busy time of year for many people, what with all of the events, shopping, decorating, travel, and guests to prepare for. That hustle and bustle isn’t just overwhelming for people, though: it can also be pretty intense for pets. Our furry friends may look adorable posing for holiday photos, but they can also get stressed out at this time of year. A local Olympia, WA vet offers some advice on holiday stress and pets in this article.

Why Are The Holidays Stressful For Pets?

Our adorable furry friends definitely have strong mischievous streaks. However, they are also very emotional, and really thrive on routine. Disruptions to their environments or schedules can really throw them off. Loud noises and commotions can also be quite upsetting. Even decorations—such as that inflatable reindeer on the roof or the singing snowman in the entryway—can make Fido and Fluffy anxious. Guests can also be a source of stress.

Protecting Pets From New Year’s Eve Stress

Take extra precautions when New Year’s Eve rolls around, especially if you live in a crowded or loud area. Those fireworks can be really unsettling. Dogs, particularly, tend to get frightened of the flashes and bangs. Fido doesn’t understand what the lights and noise are, and may bolt out of sheer terror. Unfortunately, there is often a spike in reports of missing pets after New Year’s Eve.

Make sure Fido has a comfy bed, and offer him a chew or a new toy to distract him. Turning a radio on to mask the noise will also help. Pups that are particularly anxious may benefit from calming treats or sprays, or perhaps weighted shirts. It may also help to wear your furry bff down with a fun play session. Dogs are always calmer when they’re tired! 

Signs Of Stress In Dogs

Fido can’t tell you if he’s feeling uneasy, but he does give off clues about his feelings. It’s important to read up on dogs’ body language, and learn to read some of the subtle and also the not-so-subtle clues that a pooch is feeling anxious.

One thing to watch for is excessive panting. Fido may also drool, pace, or lick himself obsessively. Your pup may whimper, whine, bark, howl, or growl, and he may just sound a bit different than he usually does. You may also notice your furry pal drinking more water than usual, which will of course then lead to increased urination.

There are also some things to watch for in your pet’s posture and appearance. These include dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, trembling, tucking the tail, and withdrawing. He may not eat as much as usual, and he may stick close to you.

If you notice any of these warning signs, take steps to help your pup feel calmer. You don’t want to coddle him too much, but there’s no reason you can’t pet him or soothe him. 

Signs Of Stress In Cats

We may like to joke about how cats are actually just fluffy little murderers, but the truth is that Fluffy is very emotional, and gets quite distressed from changes in her domain. In fact, your kitty can get quite distressed by disruptions to her home environment or normal daily kitty routine, which of course consists of 32 naps, eight meals, four yoga sessions, and at least one play session.

Our feline pals often withdraw when they feel anxious. Fluffy may retreat to her favorite hiding spot, and not want to come out. Some cats will stop using the litterbox, while others lose their appetite. You may also notice your pet sitting in the ‘loaf’ position, tucking her tail, or flattening her ears. In extreme cases, cats that are feeling stressed may vomit. 

Create Safe Spaces For Pets To Retreat From Holiday Stress

Home is where we feel the most comfortable and safe. That’s true for pets, too! One thing you can do is provide safe, comfortable spaces for your furry buddy. 

This is really easy with cats. You can pick up some pet condos for your feline pal, or make her a pet tent or tipi. Even a box or a paper bag can provide a kitty with a hideaway spot. A place beneath a bed or behind the couch will also make a great retreat. If you have a dog or small children, Fluffy may appreciate having a high spot, such as a cat tower, so she has a vertical escape.

As for Fido, a crate can be a great option for this. Crates can be wonderful tools, when used properly, as they can provide safe little dens for our canine pals to retreat to. Add toys and bedding to make it appealing. 

If you have space, you can even set up a quiet back room for your four-legged pal. Add the necessities, such as toys, treats, and bedding, and put a baby gate at the door.

Try Calming Products To Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets

If your furry friend is extremely nervous, you may want to ask your Olympia, WA vet about using calming products. There are quite a few options available on the market, from weighted shirts to pheromone sprays, collars, and treats. Medication is also an option for more severe cases, though of course you should never give your pet any medication unless your vet specifically recommends it. Supplements may also be helpful. However, don’t wait until the day before your entire family shows up to try these products. It’s important to have an idea of how your pet will react.

Holiday Decor: Safety Concerns For Pets

Pets sometimes soothe themselves by making mischief. That’s always dangerous, but is particularly dangerous at this time of year. Many of those beautiful holiday decorations are unsafe for playful pets!

Some of the things you’d want to be careful with include:

  • Small or sharp items, such as ornaments, manger pieces, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, ribbons, and small figurines.
  • Anything ropy or stringy, such as tinsel, string lights, electrical cords, tinsel, popcorn strands, ribbons, and string.
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, and ties.
  • Many seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and poinsettia.
  • Anything that produces flames or high temperatures, such as candles, wax burners, potpourri burners, and fireplaces.

Keep Pets On A Steady Schedule

Pets are very much creatures of habit, and they tend to thrive on consistency. The holidays can throw a wrench into any schedule. Try to avoid disrupting Fido and Fluffy’s routines, at least as much as you can.

This also applies to food. Many of those popular holiday dishes are quite rich. That could upset your furry friend’s stomach, which is the last thing you want. Ask your Olympia, WA veterinary clinic for more information.

Guests And Pets

Are you having company over the next few months? Guests can also stress pets out. This may vary wildly. On the one hand, many pets are quite familiar with their human’s families, and may just see them as extra hands to provide treats, ear scritches, and belly rubs. Others will immediately get frightened.

If your pet is nervous or anxious, just let them have their quiet space. We’d recommend asking guests not to feed or discipline pets, and, if they’re staying over, to keep their door closed. 

First impressions are also important here. Before your company arrives, tire your furry pal out with a good play session. If your animal companion is extremely anxious, and/or is reactive, ask your vet for specific advice.

Don’t Skimp On Exercise

Making sure that your dog is getting the right type and amount of exercise is crucial for Fido’s health and well-being. It also goes a long way in curbing stress, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Keep up with those daily walks.

As for Fluffy, you can give her a good workout through interactive play. Use a wand toy or laser pointer. (Bonus: if you tire your kitty out enough, she may lose interest in attacking the Christmas tree.)

Provide Lots Of Toys And Enrichment

One of the best things you can do to ward off holiday stress in pets is give them toys to entertain them, occupy them, and distract them. Give Fido and Fluffy some of their toys early, and make time to play with them every night. Vigorous play also helps, by tiring pets out and helping them burn off their zoomies.

Keep in mind that your pet may also continue to show signs of stress even after things have settled down. Pay extra attention to your furry bestie over the next several weeks!

Season’s Greetings From all of us here at Olympia Veterinary Hospital, your local Olympia, WA pet hospital. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about your pet’s health or care. 

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