Ah, it’s Christmas holiday time – the smell of good food cooking, a house full of family and friends, the holiday décor and music, the excitement in children’s faces as they wait for Christmas morning – we love everything about the holidays!
But sometimes we can be so caught up in the festivities, we may not notice that all the excitement and changes that come with the holidays can stress our pets. A pet can stress when you have unfamiliar family and friends over. The guests have unfamiliar scents, and the increased noise and activity can scare them. Putting up a Christmas tree with lights and presents around the tree could be a stress trigger for a pet. And what about the stress a pet can experience if the family goes on holiday without them?
If pets stress over the holiday events and changes, they can misbehave due to the stress. For example, a dog may begin urinating in inappropriate places or tearing things up. A cat may take to scratching furniture or marking areas around the house to relieve its stress. And if you scold or punish them, it only causes more problems. Our team here at Aspen Veterinary Clinic would like to give you some tips on how to help minimize stress for your pet over the holiday.
1. Stick to Your Pet’s Routines
Even if your schedule gets hectic, try to keep your pet’s feeding, sleep, and play times as much as possible. For example, if you usually feed your cat first thing in the morning or walk your dog after lunch, do this every day, even when you sleep a little later than usual, or serve a big family dinner mid-afternoon. In fact, after a big meal, a family walk with the dog is good for everyone!
2. Give Your Pets Some Attention
Don’t forget to include your pet in your “To Do” list. Even if you miss a play session with your pet, snuggle with your pet at night while you watch a show or read a book before bed. Studies have shown that spending time with your pets can relieve some of your stress too!
3. Exercise and Play with Your Pets
When pets are inactive, they can become restless, irritable, hyperactive, and anxious. Pets need exercise and play as we do. Play helps to relieve stress. Give your pet an early Christmas gift of a new toy. But don’t just give them the toy and walk away. Play with them. Interact with them as much as you can. You’ll see less anxiety or bad behavior in your pet.
4. Calming Aids
If your pet gets stressed when you have guests over, putting them in a safe room with calming music can do wonders. You can find lots of relaxing music on YouTube for your pet. YouTube has music for dogs and cats. It’s great to have for other stressful situations like storms, fireworks, etc.
Also, there are many calming chews or powders you can get at your local pet food supply store. If you are not sure what remedy is best for your pet, please contact us and we’ll give you some suggestions.
5. Get Others to Help
If you have a busy schedule, get help when you can. This could be family or friends, dog daycare, or a pet sitter. They can help with such things like taking your dog for a walk, feeding, or playing with your pets. If someone else gets charge of your pet while you are away from home, ensure they have all the details such as pet feeding schedule, medications, veterinarian number and emergency vet numbers.
6. Prepare Your Pet for Boarding if Necessary
If you are going out of town and have never boarded your pet, it is best to gradually prepare your pet to be in the boarding facility.
If your pet is particularly nervous or prone to separation anxiety, it’s a good idea to plan a trial boarding stay. The trial stay of at least 24 hours eases your pet into a new environment and daily routine. Your dog will adjust much better when it comes time for a more extended stay.
To help with possible separation anxiety, bring a familiar rug or blanket and their favorite toy. These will help your pet feel more secure. (The facility may allow you to bring your pet’s bed, so ask in advance.)
Please be watchful for signs of stress in your pet and follow the above tips so your pets enjoy the holidays too, stress-free. If you have any questions about your pet’s health or managing stress in your pet, please call us at 775-753-9111. We are here to help your pet stay well.
Dr. Kathryn Moriarty
Aspen Veterinary Clinic