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Holidays and Pets: Helping Fido And Fluffy Cope With Seasonal Stress

December 15, 2023

Season’s Greetings! The holiday season is in full swing. This can be a busy and overwhelming time for many of us. Between attending festivities, shopping, decorating, and traveling, lots of us also have the added responsibility of hosting guests. That’s a lot of extra things to juggle!  It’s not just humans who feel the strain during this time. Our furry companions also experience anxiety. While Fido and Fluffy might look cute posing in front of a decorated tree, all the hustle and bustle can cause them some stress, which can take a toll on their well-being. A Hyattsville, MD veterinarian offers some insight on this below.

Why Do Dogs And Cats Get Stressed During The Holidays?

There are a few things at play here. For one, our beloved animal companions are often creatures of habit, who tend to thrive on routine. Fido and Fluffy can be quite upset by changes in their surroundings or routines, loud noises and commotions, or even decorations, like that inflatable snowman in the yard, or the singing reindeer on your neighbor’s roof. Even visitors can make some of our furry pals uneasy. You may be delighted to spend time with your cousin’s three-year-old, but your cat may not be so thrilled about suddenly having a tiny human around.

How Do I Make Sure My Holiday Decorations Are Pet-Safe? 

Fido and Fluffy are known for making mischief: they often love to play with anything within paws’ reach. This is an adorable way for pets to soothe themselves, but it can get them into trouble. Many of those beautiful holiday decorations are dangerous for pets.

Watch out for these things:

  • Items with strings or ropes, such as tinsel, string lights, electrical cords, tinsel, popcorn strands, and ribbons.
  • Plastic bags and wrappers.
  • Anything small or sharp, such as ornaments, ornament hooks, tinsel strands, ribbons, manger pieces, and figurines.
  • Candles, wax burners, potpourri burners, and fireplaces: any type of flame is a potential hazard.
  • Poinsettias, holly, and ivy and other seasonal plants. Many of these are toxic to pets.
  • Food can be a concern as well. A lot of popular holiday dishes are quite rich. They could upset your furry pal’s stomach, which is the last thing you want. Also, many popular foods, including chocolate, grapes, and raisins, are toxic to pets. 

How Can I Soothe My Pets On New Year’s Eve? 

We often see an increase in missing pet reports on New Year’s Eve. Commotion, music, and fireworks can be really unsettling for our animal friends. Plus, many of our animal companions are frightened of flashes and bangs, and may run away out of fear. Take extra precautions as we say goodbye to 2023, and usher in 2024. 

How to Help Pets and Guests Get Along Over the Holidays

If you plan to host guests in the next few weeks, you’ll want to take steps to help your furry pal feel comfortable. Some of our animal friends get quite upset about visitors. 

Of course, this isn’t an issue with every pet. Some of our furry patients see guests as extra laps for napping, or additional hands that offer treats, ear scratches, and belly rubs. Others are more nervous. 

First impressions are very important here. Before your guests arrive, tire your furry pal out with a good play session. If your animal companion is extremely anxious, and/or is reactive, ask your Hyattsville, MD vet for specific advice.

Offer A Safe Space

On nights when you are expecting things to get a bit loud, you may want to set your furry pal up in a quiet spot, such as a back room. Offer toys, treats, and bedding, and turn a radio or TV on to mask any noise. If your furry bff is particularly anxious, calming treats or sprays may help. (More on that later.) 

Burn Off That Angst

It’s important to keep pets active, even during the holidays. Fido’s daily walks and play sessions can actually help reduce anxiety. Dogs and cats are always calmer when they’re tired. You want your furry buddy to work off its nervous energy in a healthy way. (Plus, walking your canine buddy can help you burn off those rich cookies your grandma made.)

As to our feline overlords, well, you can give Fluffy a good workout with interactive toys, such as a wand toy or laser pointer. (A bonus: if you tire your kitty out enough, she might lose interest in attacking the Christmas tree. However, we’re not promising anything on that one.)

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Stressed? 

Fido is not able to tell you if he is uncomfortable, but he does give off subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) clues about how he feels. It’s important to learn how to read doggy body language, and become familiar with some of the subtle clues that Fido is feeling anxious.

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

You may also spot signs of stress in your pup’s posture and stance. Red flags include trembling, tucking the tail, dilated pupils, showing the whites of the eyes, grumpiness, and withdrawing. Fido may not be eating as much as usual, and he might stay close to you. Ask your Hyattsville, MD vet for more insight. 

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Stressed? 

Fluffy is actually very emotional as well, and can get upset by changes to her domain or her daily routine. 

Kitties often retreat to their favorite hiding places when they are feeling anxious. Fluffy may sit in a ‘cat loaf’ position, tuck her tail, or flatten her ears. Some kitties stop using their litter boxes, while others lose their appetite. In extreme cases, stressed cats may vomit. Your furry pal may become a cuddle bug, or not want to be touched at all … it depends on the kitty. Just make sure your furry pal has a quiet spot to retreat to. 

Is It Possible To Soothe Holiday Stress In Pets With Calming Products?

Ask your Hyattsville, MD veterinarian about calming products, such as pheromone sprays, treats, and collars. Weighted shirts are another possibility. If the condition is severe, medication may also be prescribed. However, you should never give your pet any medication unless your veterinarian recommends it specifically. We also wouldn’t 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. 

The best ways to alleviate holiday stress in our furry companions? Make sure they feel loved and safe. Make sure you pay extra attention to your furry buddy over the next few weeks, especially if they show signs of stress. New toys can also help occupy, entertain, and distract your pet. (Fido and Fluffy also won’t mind some treats, or perhaps a new bed.) 
Happy Holidays from Brentwood Animal Hospital! Feel free to contact us any time. As your Hyattsville, MD veterinary clinic, we are dedicated to offering great care!

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