Helping Pets Cope With Holiday Stress

Season’s Greetings! This is a pretty busy time of year for many people, what with all of those seasonal events, shopping, decorating, travel, and guests to manage. That hustle and bustle isn’t just overwhelming for people, though. The holidays can also be pretty intense for pets. Fido and Fluffy may look extra cute in front of the tree, but they can actually get quite stressed out at this special time of year. A local Tampa, FL veterinarian offers some helpful tips on holiday stress and pets below.

Why Do The Holidays Get Stressful For Pets?

Many of our adorable furry pals are creatures of habit, and really thrive on routine. Disruptions to their environments or schedules can really throw pets off. Loud noises and commotions can also be quite upsetting to Fido and Fluffy. Even decorations—such as that inflatable snowman on the roof or the singing reindeer in the entryway—can make pets anxious. Guests can also be a source of stress. You may be beyond thrilled to spend time with your sister’s toddler, but your feline pal may be much less enthusiastic about suddenly having a tiny human around.

Protecting Pets From New Year’s Eve Stress

Unfortunately, there is often a spike in reports of missing pets after New Year’s Eve. Commotion, music, and fireworks can be really unsettling to our four-legged friends! Pets are often terrified of the flashes and bangs. Fido and Fluffy don’t understand what the lights and noise are, and may bolt out of sheer terror. 

Take extra precautions when New Year’s Eve rolls around. You may want to give your pet a quiet spot, such as a back room. Add the necessities, such as toys, treats, and bedding, and put a baby gate at the door. Make sure Fido has a comfy bed, and offer him a chew or a new toy to distract him. Fluffy may appreciate a catnip mouse. Turning a radio on to mask the noise may 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 buddy out with a fun play session. Pets are always calmer when they’re tired! 

Don’t Skimp On Exercise

Making sure that your dog is getting the right type and amount of exercise goes a long way in curbing stress, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Keep up with Fido’s daily walks and play sessions!

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, though we aren’t promising anything.)

Signs Of Stress In Dogs

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

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

There are also some things to watch for in your dog’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 Fido 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 kitties are actually just fluffy little murderers, but the truth is that Fluffy is very emotional, and gets very distressed from changes in her domain or normal daily kitty routine, which of course consists of 32 naps, eight meals, four yoga sessions, and at least one play session.

Cats 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 cute pet sitting in the ‘loaf’ position, tucking her tail, or flattening her ears. In extreme cases, kitties that are feeling stressed may vomit. 

Try Calming Products To Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets

If your furry pal is extremely nervous, or showing the signs listed above, ask your Tampa, FL vet about using calming products. There are quite a few options available on the market, from weighted shirts to pheromone sprays, treats, and collars. 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. If you think your four-legged pal may become nervous at this year’s festivities, talk to your vet now. 

Holiday Decor: Safety Concerns For Pets

Pets have a tendency to soothe themselves by making mischief. That’s 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:

  • Anything ropy or stringy, such as tinsel, string lights, electrical cords, tinsel, popcorn strands, ribbons, and string.
  • Many seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and poinsettia.
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, and ties.
  • Small or sharp items, such as ornaments, manger pieces, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, ribbons, and small figurines.
  • Anything that produces flames or high temperatures, such as candles, wax burners, potpourri burners, and fireplaces.
  • Food. Many of those popular holiday dishes are quite rich. That could upset your furry pal’s stomach, which is the last thing you want. Ask your Tampa, FL veterinary clinic for more information.

Helping Pets And Guests CoExist Over The Holidays

Are you having guests over the next few weeks? Guests can also stress pets out, though reactions 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 furry friend 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 Fido and Fluffy out with a good play session. If your animal companion is extremely anxious, and/or is reactive, ask your Tampa, FL vet for specific advice.


Provide Lots Of Toys And Enrichment

One of the best ways to ward off holiday stress in our furry companions is offer them toys to entertain, occupy, and distract themselves with. 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 best buddy over the next several weeks!

Season’s Greetings from  Baycrest Animal Clinic, your local Tampa, FL animal clinic. Call us anytime!

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