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Stress And Pets During The Holidays

December 15 2023

Happy Holidays! This time of year can get pretty hectic. That hustle and bustle is going to keep many of you on your toes this week, with all of the holiday events, shopping, decorating, and traveling, and often hosting guests to boot. The holidays can also be a bit stressful for pets. While our patients always look adorable posing in front of a pretty Christmas tree, and certainly won’t mind getting some new toys or extra treats, they can get distressed by changes and commotion. As a Fear Free practice, we’re very aware of and committed to reducing the effects of stress on our patients. A Rancho Santa Fe, CA veterinarian has provided some useful tips on helping your furry pal have a holly, jolly holiday season in this article.

Why Do Fido And Fluffy Get Stressed During The Holidays?

Many pets are creatures of habit, who tend to thrive on routine. Fido and Fluffy can get quite distressed by changes to their environment or routine. Loud noises and commotions can also be upsetting for our furry pals. Even decorations, like that inflatable snowman in the yard or the singing reindeer in the hall, can put them on edge. Visitors, parties, and travel also make animals uneasy. You may be beyond excited to spend time with your cousin’s two-year-old daughter, but your cat may be much less enthusiastic about suddenly having a tiny human around. Amidst the festive chaos, it’s a good time to celebrate specific breeds and their quirks. Read about how our local Rancho Santa Fe, CA Veterinary Clinic celebrates ‘National Boxer Day’, focusing on one of the many beloved dog breeds.

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

Are you hosting guests over the next few weeks?  Your four-legged buddy may also be stressed out by visitors. Of course, this varies from pet to pet. Some of our furry pals are already quite familiar with their humans’ friends and  families, and may simply see guests as extra hands to provide treats, ear scratches, and belly rubs, extra laps for napping in, and extra pals to play with. Others are more uneasy. Small children can unsettle some pets, simply because, well, toddlers can be a bit loud. 

Give your fuzzy pal a quiet spot to retreat to, such as a back room. Provide all the necessities, such as toys, treats, and bedding, and turn a radio or TV on to mask any noise. Pets that are extremely anxious may benefit from calming treats or sprays, or perhaps weighted shirts. Aromatherapy can also be helpful, but be sure to get recommendations from your vet: not all scents are safe for pets. 

First impressions are also very important here. Before your visitors arrive, 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.

Help Pets Burn Off Extra Energy

Making sure your pet is getting proper activity can actually do a lot to keep stress, anxiety, and behavioral issues at bay. Take time to play with Fluffy, and walk and play with Fido every day. 

There are some benefits here for you as well. Taking your pooch for a long walk is a good way for you to burn off those cookies your grandma made. Plus, if you tire your feline friend out playing Catch The Red Dot, she may lose interest in attacking the Christmas tree. (Results may vary.)

Common Warning Signs Of Stress In Dogs

Your canine friend 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 Fido’s body language.

If your pooch is feeling stressed, he may pant, drool, pace, or lick himself obsessively. Fido may also whine, whimper, howl, or growl, or he may just bark a little differently than he usually does. He may drink more water than usual, which may cause him to urinate more. Reduced appetite, clinginess, digging, chewing, and grumpiness are also red flags.

Dogs also show some signs of stress in their posture and stance. Some things to look for include trembling, dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, tucking the tail, grumpiness, and withdrawing. 

Signs Of Stress In Kitties

We like to joke that Fluffy is a fluffy little murderess who is plotting to kill us, but that isn’t quite fair. Our feline friends are very emotional, and can get very distressed by changes to their domains or daily routines, which consists of 34 naps, six meals, two yoga sessions, and at least one play session. In fact, our concern for Fluffy’s emotional health is one reason we’re dedicated to becoming a Fear Free practice.

Anxious cats often withdraw into their favorite hiding places and don’t want to leave. Some cats stop using their litter boxes; others lose their appetites. Your furball may also sit in the ‘loaf’ position, tuck her tail, or flatten her ears if she’s feeling stressed. In extreme cases, kitties that are feeling stressed may vomit. Overgrooming is another red flag. 

Can Calming Products Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets?

Is your pet extremely nervous? Are Fluffy and Fido showing any of the above signs? Ask your veterinarian 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 four-legged pal any medication unless your veterinarian specifically recommends it, though. 

You may also want to look into natural options, such as supplements. Even a soothing massage can help: these are just as relaxing for pets as they are for us! It’s also a great time to ensure your pet is up to date on all their wellness checks and vaccinations. Learn more about our comprehensive ‘Veterinary Wellness & Pet Vaccinations’ services to keep your pet healthy and stress-free during the holidays and beyond. Ask your Rancho Santa Fe, CA veterinary hospital for more information. 

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

It’s important to realize that pets often soothe themselves by making mischief. That’s adorable, but can be dangerous. Many seasonal items and decorations pose hazards for our furry pals.

Here are some seasonal hazards to be aware of.

  • Stringy or ropy items, such as tinsel, popcorn strands, string lights, electrical cords, and ribbons.
  • Anything that produces flames or high temperatures. That includes candles, wax burners, torches, potpourri burners, fire pits, and fireplaces.
  • Many popular seasonal plants such as holly, ivy, and poinsettias. Peace lilies are another one: they’re extremely toxic to cats. 
  • Food! Many popular foods, such as chocolate, grapes, and raisins, are also unsafe for pets.  Fatty foods could upset your furry pal’s stomach, which is the last thing you want. Contact your Rancho Santa Fe, CA veterinary clinic for more information.
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, and ties.
  • Anything small or sharp, such as ornaments, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, ribbons, and figurines, advent calendar pieces, manger pieces … the list goes on. 

Keeping Pets Calm During The Holidays

How do you ease holiday stress in your furry companions? The biggest thing is to make sure they feel loved and safe. Pay extra attention to your furry buddy over the next few weeks, especially if they’re showing signs of stress. It’s also important to provide Fido and Fluffy with toys they can occupy, entertain, and distract themselves with. Extra cuddles and play sessions—and perhaps some yummy, veterinarian-approved snacks—will also help. Happy Holidays from Santaluz Animal Care, your Rancho Santa Fe, CA animal clinic. We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Please contact us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs.

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