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Helping Pets Avoid Stress During The Holidays

December 15, 2023

Season’s Greetings! This is a beautiful and special time of year, but it can also be quite hectic. Most of us are juggling various activities, such as shopping, decorating, holiday events, and traveling, and often hosting company to boot. However, all that hustle and bustle isn’t just overwhelming for people. Our animal companions may also experience anxiety during the holidays. A local vet offers some useful tips on helping pets cope with holiday stress in this article from All About Animals Veterinary Services, serving the Villa Rica area.

Why Do Pets Get Stressed Out During The Holidays?

Our furred and feathered friends tend to be creatures of habit, who thrive on routine. Animals can get quite distressed by changes to their environment or schedules. Even decorations, like an inflatable Frosty or singing Santa, may put them on edge. Loud noises and commotions can also be upsetting for them. 

Visitors can also be a cause of stress. You may be beyond thrilled to spend time with your cousin’s adorable two-year-old son, but your cat may be much less enthusiastic about suddenly having a tiny human around. 

Helping Pets and Visitors Get Along Over The Holidays

Are you hosting guests over the next few weeks? Take a few steps to help your pet feel at ease. Pets may also be stressed out by visitors. Of course, their opinions of visitors 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 ear scratches, treats, and belly rubs. Others are very scared or or unsettled by unfamiliar faces or voices.

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 very  important here. Before your company arrives, tire your little (or not so little) buddy out with a good play session. If your animal companion is extremely anxious and/or is reactive, ask your Carrollton, GA vet for specific advice.

Exercise Is Essential (Even During The Holidays)

Making sure your pet is getting enough activity and entertainment can go a long way in helping keep stress at bay. You want your furry friend to work off that nervous energy in a healthy way! (Plus, a long walk is a good way for you to burn off those rich cookies your aunt made.) Keep up with play and other activities.

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

Pets often soothe themselves by making mischief. That’s for the most part really adorable, but it unfortunately can also get them into trouble. Many of those beautiful holiday decorations are dangerous for our animal friends.

Here are some potential hazards: 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • GIfts. Some pets will want to chew on presents. You don’t want your pet eating tape, staples, or wrapping paper that was made with unsafe chemicals. Consider putting a puppy gate around the tree, especially if you have a puppy or a pocket pet.
  • Food! Those popular holiday dishes can be quite rich. Many popular foods, such as chocolate, grapes, and raisins, are also unsafe for pets.  

It’s worth noting that birds and smaller animals also face some unique hazards. Contact your Carrollton, GA  veterinary clinic for more information.

What Are Signs Of Holiday Stress In Kitties?

We like to joke that Fluffy is actually an adorable little murderess who is secretly plotting our demise, but the truth is our feline pals are very emotional. Kitties can get very distressed by changes to their domain or changes to their daily napping routines!

Anxious furballs 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. Fluffy 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. Some become cuddle bugs: others won’t want to be touched.

What Are Warning Signs Of Holiday Stress In Dogs?

Fido can’t exactly tell you if he’s uncomfortable, but he does give off clues about his feelings. It’s important to learn how to read canine body language, and know both the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that your pooch is feeling anxious.

In addition to excessive panting, dogs that are stressed may drool, pace, or lick themselves obsessively. Your pup may also whine, bark, howl, or growl. You may also notice your pooch drinking more water than usual, which may cause him to urinate more. Some will indulge in destructive behaviors, like digging or chewing.

Fido may also show some signs of tension in his posture and stance. Other red flags include trembling, tucking the tail, dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, grumpiness, and withdrawing. Your pooch  may not eat as much as usual, and he may stick close to you.

You don’t want to coddle your canine pal too much, but you can pet him or soothe him. Ask your Carrollton, GA veterinarian for more information.

Signs Of Stress In Other Pets

Birds, bunnies, and other smaller pets are also susceptible to stress. The warning signs vary from pet to pet, so ask your vet for more information. For instance, a bird may pull her feathers or vocalize in an unusual way, while a bunny may thump her feet. 

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. Stop and visit often, so they don’t feel forgotten!

Can Calming Products Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets?

If you know or suspect that your dog or cat is stressed, ask your vet about calming products, such as weighted shirts and/or pheromone treats, sprays, 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 Carrollton, GA veterinarian now.

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. You may want to take some extra precautions as New Year’s Eve approaches. 

In conclusion, while the holidays can be stressful for pets, there are ways to help your animal buddy cope. First and foremost, pay extra attention to your furry or  feathered buddy, and make sure they feel loved and safe. Adding some fun toys to their stocking, providing a safe haven, and taking time to play with and exercise your pet will also help. Happy Holidays from everyone here at All About Animals Veterinary Services, serving the Villa Rica area. Feel free to contact us at any time.

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