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How to help manage your pet’s anxiety and stress around the holidays

How to help manage your pet’s anxiety and stress around the holidays

Ah, the holiday season! A time of joy, jingle bells, and… jittery pets? Yes, amidst the festive cheer, our four-legged friends often find themselves in a whirlwind of confusion and anxiety. From the Christmas chaos to the New Year’s Eve bangs and booms, it’s not all merry and bright for our dogs and cats. But fear not, pet parents! This guide is your secret weapon to keeping your pooches and kittens calm and collected during these ‘bark-tastic’ celebrations.

So, let’s delve into the section on understanding pet anxiety during the holidays.

stress and anxiety in pets

Understanding pet anxiety during the holidays

Think of the holidays through your dog’s eyes (and ears): unfamiliar decorations sprouting up like strange trees, an endless parade of guests, and those mysterious booms from fireworks. It’s no wonder many pets get the holiday jitters! Recognising anxiety in our canines is the first step to helping them cope.

Spotting the signs of stress in dogs

Anxious dogs often show subtle signs that are easy to miss in the holiday hustle and bustle. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Whale eye: When your dog shows more of the white part of their eyes, it’s often a sign of unease. This phenomenon, known as whale eye, is a silent scream for help.
  • Panting and pacing: Just like humans, dogs can get nervously fidgety. If Fido is panting without a physical cause or pacing around, it’s a red flag.
  • Lip licking, pinned ears, and yawning: These aren’t always signs of hunger or tiredness. In the dog world, they’re often stress signals.
  • Hiding or clinginess: Your independent furball suddenly becoming a velcro dog? It’s likely anxiety knocking on their paw.

If you are noticing signs of stress and anxiety in your dog see this article how to calm an anxious dog. Also see how environment can impact your pet’s behavior.

Recognising signs of stress in cats

Just like their canine counterparts, cats also show signs of stress, which can be particularly heightened during the bustling holiday season. Here are key indicators to watch for in your feline friend:

  • Hiding more than usual: Cats love their quiet time, but excessive hiding can be a sign of stress.
  • Over-grooming: If your cat is grooming excessively to the point of hair loss or skin irritation, it could be a stress response.
  • Changes in appetite: A sudden increase or decrease in appetite is often a sign of stress in cats.
  • Aggression or withdrawal: Uncharacteristic aggression towards people or other pets, or an unusual withdrawal, can indicate your cat is feeling stressed.
  • Urinating outside the litter box: Stress can lead to changes in litter box habits, including urinating outside of it.
  • Excessive vocalisation: If your cat is meowing more than usual, especially at odd hours, it might be a sign of anxiety or discomfort.

The ‘Holiday Hullabaloo’ effect

The holiday season amplifies stress factors for pets. According to experts like Dr. Claire Hargrave, nearly half of all dogs have sound sensitivities, making celebrations like fireworks and thunderstorms particularly tough. The link between these sounds and anxiety is also echoed in other research.

It’s not just the noise. The disruption of routines, unfamiliar people, and even those flashing Christmas lights can disorient our pets. While we revel in the season’s joy, our pets might be silently wishing for some peace and quiet.

Why it matters

Ignoring these signs of anxiety can lead to long-term issues. Anxiety doesn’t just disappear when the decorations come down; it can seep into other aspects of your pet’s life. It’s crucial to address these concerns early to ensure your pet’s mental and emotional well-being.

In the next section, we’ll explore how to turn the ‘No, No, No!’ into ‘Ho, Ho, Ho!’ for your anxious dog this holiday season, without the need for prescription medication.”

scared and stressed dog

3. How do I calm my anxious dog and cat on holiday?

During the holidays, both dogs and cats can experience heightened anxiety. Thankfully, there are several non-medication approaches to help your pets stay calm and collected:

Creating a safe haven

A cosy den for your dog or a quiet, secluded spot for your cat can be a sanctuary from the holiday frenzy. Dr. Claire Hargrave suggests this as a retreat where they can feel secure. Include their favorite blanket, toy, or even a piece of your clothing for added comfort.

Pheromones for peace

For dogs, products like the Adaptil Calm Collar mimic calming pheromones. Cats, on the other hand, respond well to feline pheromones found in products like Feliway Diffuser Refills, which can create a soothing environment in your home.

Distraction with toys and treats

Engage your pets with toys or puzzles to keep their minds off the stress. For cats, catnip or interactive toys can be particularly effective. Dogs might enjoy puzzle feeders that challenge and reward them. These distractions can be a helpful way to divert their attention from anxiety triggers.

Consult your vet

Remember, for severe cases of anxiety, a conversation with your vet is always advisable. They can offer guidance tailored to your pet’s specific needs and if they need any dog anxiety medication.

4. Over-the-counter solutions for pet anxiety

There’s a variety of over-the-counter options available at Pet Chemist to help your pets relax during the holiday season:

Chews and treats

Dogs can benefit from calming chews like PAW Complete Calm Tryptophan Chews, while cats might enjoy Vetalogica Vitarapid Tranquil Daily Treats. These treats contain ingredients known for their soothing properties.

Calming supplements

Supplements like Zylkene Anxiety & Behaviour Capsules are available for both dogs and cats. They work to gently ease anxiety without sedation.

Explore more options

For more choices, explore Pet Chemist’s selections for dogs and cats. From sprays to diffusers, you’ll find a variety of solutions to suit your pet’s individual needs.

5. Additional tips and tricks

“Beyond specific products, there are everyday strategies and lifestyle changes that can greatly reduce pet anxiety, especially during the festive season. Here’s how to make the holidays a more pet-friendly time:

Maintain routine

Pets thrive on routine. Try to keep their feeding, walking, and playtimes as regular as possible, even amidst the holiday hustle.

Exercise

A good play session or a long walk can work wonders for reducing stress in both dogs and cats. It helps burn off excess energy and promotes relaxation.

Gradual desensitisation

If possible, gradually acclimate your pet to the sounds and sights of the holiday season. Low-volume recordings of fireworks or gentle exposure to festive lights can help.

Create a quiet space

Set up a quiet, comfortable area away from the noise and guests where your pet can retreat. Include their favourite bed, toys, and a piece of clothing with your scent.

Practice calmness

Your pet picks up on your energy. Staying calm and positive around them can help ease their anxiety.

Festive preparations

In the lead-up to the holidays, try to introduce any new products or routines gradually. This gives your pet time to adjust and can make the actual celebrations less stressful.

Conclusion

The holiday season should be a joyous time for everyone in the family, including our furry members. By understanding and addressing their anxiety, we can ensure that our pets enjoy the festivities as much as we do. 

From creating a safe haven to incorporating calming products and maintaining routines, there are numerous ways to help your pet navigate the holiday season with ease. Remember, the key is to be observant, patient, and proactive in managing their stress. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and serene holiday season for you and your pets!

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