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Stress And Pets During The Holidays

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! This time of year can be quite hectic. Most of us are juggling various activities, such as holiday events, shopping, decorating, and traveling, and often hosting guests to boot. However, this special time isn’t just overwhelming for people. Our animal companions may also experience anxiety during the holidays. While our patients always look adorable posing in front of a pretty Christmas tree, they can actually become quite stressed by all of that hustle and bustle. A De Pere, WI veterinarian has provided some useful tips on helping pets cope with stress  below.

Why Do Pets Get Stressed During The Holidays?

Our beloved animal companions are often creatures of habit, who tend to thrive on routine. Pets can get quite distressed by changes to their environment or routine. Loud noises and commotions can also be upsetting for our furred and feathered pals. Even decorations, like an inflatable snowman or singing reindeer, may put them on edge. 

Having guests over can also be a cause of stress. You may be beyond thrilled to spend time with your cousin’s toddler, but your cat may be much less enthusiastic about suddenly having a tiny human around.

New Year’s Eve Stress and Pets

Unfortunately, New Year’s Eve is often marked by increased reporting of missing pets. Commotion, music, and fireworks can be really unsettling to our four-legged friends! In fact, many of our animal companions are terrified of those flashes and bangs, and may bolt out of fear. Take some extra precautions when New Year’s Eve approaches. 

Let There Be Peace On Earth: Helping Pets and Guests Get Along Over The Holidays

Will you be hosting guests over the next few weeks?  Pets may also be stressed out by visitors, though their reactions may differ greatly. Some of our furry patients are already quite familiar with their humans’ friends and  families, and may simply see them as extra hands to provide treats, ear scratches, and belly rubs. Others may instantly become frightened by company.

Give your pet a quiet spot, such as a back room. Add the necessities, such as toys, treats, and bedding, and turn a radio on to mask any noise. Pets that are particularly anxious may benefit from calming treats or sprays, or perhaps weighted shirts. 

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.

Exercise Is Essential (Even During The Holidays)

Keep up with Fido’s daily walks and play sessions! This can actually do a lot to keep stress, anxiety, and behavioral issues at bay. (Plus, a long walk is a good way for you to burn off those rich cookies your grandma made.)

As for cats, well, you can give Fluffy a good workout by using interactive toys, such as a wand toy or laser pointer. (Bonus: if you tire your feline friend out enough, she may lose interest in attacking the Christmas tree, though we know better than to guarantee that.)

Warning Signs Of Stress In Dogs

Your canine pal can’t tell you if he’s uncomfortable, but he does give off clues about his feelings. It’s important to learn how to read doggy body language, and become familiar with some of the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that Fido is feeling anxious.

In addition to excessive panting, Fido may drool, pace, or lick himself obsessively. He may also whine, bark, howl, or growl, or he may just bark a little differently than he usually does. You may also notice your pooch drinking more water than usual, which may cause him to urinate more.

Man’s Best Buddy may also show some signs of stress in his posture and stance. Other things to look for include trembling, tucking the tail, dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, grumpiness, and withdrawing. Fido may not eat as much as usual, and he may stick close to you.

There’s no need to coddle your canine pal too much, but you can pet him or soothe him if you notice any of these warning signs. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

Signs Of Stress In Kitties

We like to joke that Fluffy is actually an adorable little murderess, but our feline pals are very emotional. Your kitty may get very distressed by changes to her domain or daily routine changes, which consists of 39 naps, eight meals, four yoga sessions, and at least one play session.

When our feline pals feel anxious, they often withdraw into their favorite hiding places and don’t want to leave. Some cats stop using their litter boxes, while others lose their appetites. Your cute pet may also sit in the ‘loaf’ position, tuck her tail, or flatten her ears if she is feeling stressed. In extreme cases, kitties that are feeling stressed may vomit.

Signs Of Stress In Other Pets

Bunnies, exotics, reptiles, and smaller pets are also susceptible to stress. The signs vary from pet to pet, so ask your vet for more information. One piece of advice we do have for those with smaller animals is that you may want to put your little buddy’s habitat in a quiet spot over the next few weeks. 

Can Calming Products Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets?

If your pet is extremely nervous, or if they are showing any of the above signs, ask your De Pere, WI  vet about calming products, such as weighted shirts, pheromone sprays, treats, and collars. For more severe cases, medication may also be an option. Never give your pet any medication unless your veterinarian specifically recommends it, though. 

We would also not advise waiting until the day before your entire family shows up to try products. It’s important to know how your furry pal will react. If you think your pet may become very anxious over the next few weeks, consult your De Pere, WI veterinarian now.

What Are Some Pet Safety Concerns When Decorating For The Holidays?

Pets often soothe themselves by making mischief. That’s adorable, but can get them into trouble. Many of those beautiful holiday decorations are dangerous for pets. 

Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Stringy or ropy items, such as tinsel, string lights, electrical cords, tinsel, popcorn strands, and ribbons.
  • Anything that produces flames or high temperatures. That includes candles, wax burners, potpourri burners, and fireplaces.
  • Seasonal plants such as holly, ivy, and poinsettias.
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, and ties.
  • Anything small or sharp, such as ornaments, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, ribbons, and figurines.
  • Foods! Those popular holiday dishes can be quite rich. Fatty foods could upset your furry pal’s stomach, which is the last thing you want. Many popular foods, such as chocolate, grapes, and raisins, are also unsafe for pets.  Contact your De Pere, WI  veterinary clinic for more information.

Silent Nights: Helping Pets Stay Calm This Holiday Season

The best ways to alleviate holiday stress in our furry companions? Well, first and foremost, make sure they feel loved and safe. Over the next few weeks, pay extra attention to your furry, feathered, or scaled buddy, especially if they are showing signs of stress. It’s also important to provide them with toys they can occupy, entertain, and distract themselves with. Happy Holidays from everyone here at Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic, your De Pere, WI animal clinic, wishes you a happy holiday season. Feel free to contact us at any time.

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