By Dr. Kim Cargill, DVM
As we swing full throttle into the holiday season, many of us are getting frayed at the ends, overwhelmed with the stress that comes with present shopping, baking, and family gatherings. But somewhere in the background of our own stressful lives, it is easy to forget about our pets and how stressed out they may become during the holiday season as well.
Our pets are deeply in tune with us in so many ways, and when we are stressed out, they can become stressed out too. Signs that your pet is stressed can include increased hiding, panting, pacing, lip smacking for dogs; hiding more and decrease in appetite for cats; increase in nuisance behaviors such as vocalizing for birds; and more.
Ways to help our pets cope with that stress can be similar to what we do for ourselves. First off, trying to keep ourselves calm and collected and translate over to our pets as well. Also, making sure your pet is getting adequate exercise. This is especially important for high energy dogs who were used to going on their daily walks or jogs but now maybe are not getting that as often because we are too busy running our errands or it’s too cold outside. Of course it is also important to make sure you are being careful with your pets outdoors through the cold winter months and making sure they too are adequately protected from the elements on a long jog outdoors.
Another way to help our pets cope with stress during family gatherings is to respect their boundaries. Do not push your normally quiet pet into interactions with family members if your pet was hiding or showing other signs (such as ears held back, tail tucked) that they would rather be left alone. On the flip side of that it is also important to provide your normally high strung pet with quiet time and not to allow them to become over stimulated as that could be too much for them to handle.
While it is important to allow your pet to share in the festivities so that they feel included and not ignored, do be cautious as well that the attention is the only thing they are sharing with you. Too many treats and unfamiliar foods can be stressful for their digestion and result in problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, and/or pancreatitis.
So let’s all try and take a step back this holiday season and take some deep long calming breaths. Go for a jog and/or take a warm bubble bath to relax. It will not only help us to cope with the stress of the holiday season, but it will help our pets too!