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How to Keep Your Pet Calm During the Holidays

The holiday season is a joyous time, but it can also be stressful—especially for your family pet. With all of the hustle and bustle surrounding decorating and celebrating, pets may feel more anxious than usual. At GCVS, we have a few recommendations on how you can help ease your pet’s stress throughout the holidays.

Managing Pet Stress During the Holiday Season

First, it is important to understand the possible causes of stress for your pet. If you are planning a holiday gathering in your home, consider whether or not your pet enjoys large groups of people. Often, dogs and cats get overwhelmed by a large number of people. Some pets are also scared of loud noises, like those caused by New Year’s fireworks or crashing and banging around the house. Fortunately, there are so many ways to help your pet feel more at ease during the holiday season.

The first thing you should consider is outside doors. It is very easy for a pet to slip out of your home unnoticed in all of the hubbub occurring during a holiday gathering. Try to keep all outside doors closed and ask guests to make sure the doors close behind them as they enter and exit. It is always a good idea to make sure that your pet is microchipped and registered with updated contact information, and that all of the information on their ID tag is up-to-date before any holiday gatherings – just in case they happen to slip out.

In addition to making sure that your pet doesn’t get out, it is important that you give your pet a private space. Leave the door open to a quiet, secluded room and perhaps something that they love in the room. For example, leave your pet’s bed or favorite blanket or toy in the room. If it is very noisy in the house, you can also leave some relaxing music on or turn on the television.

You can also help your pet feel more at ease by keeping them on a leash and introducing them to people as they arrive. The way that you interact with your guests can also shape how your pet interacts with the guests so that you can set a good example for your pet during introductions.

One way to help reduce your pet’s likelihood for anxiety is to make sure that they get a lot of exercise prior to the event. A tired dog is much less likely to be responsive to things that would usually make them afraid.

For some pets, the best thing you can do is keep them away from the hustle and bustle altogether. Boarding facilities can be a great option, but you should always visit the facility before leaving your pet there. Ask questions about when people will be around. See if there is an opportunity for more exercise than just going outside for bathroom breaks. If your pet takes medications, make sure that someone will be there to provide their medications.

Your family veterinarian may be able to provide you with information for a specialist if nothing appears to be working for your pet.

Other Holiday Safety Tips

Stress is just one of the hazards of the holiday season that pets could deal with. Here are a few of our holiday safety tips for pets:

Décor Safety: Some of the common holiday decorations that you put up could be dangerous for pets. Many objects are potential choking hazards. Small ornaments are easy for your pet to play with, and your pet could accidentally swallow the ornament and choke. Glass ornaments can also break and cause injuries to your pet. Tinsel is a common problem, especially for cat owners. Tinsel is easy to ingest, but it can cause a host of digestion problems that include critical emergency situations.

Electrical cords are found nearly everywhere during the holidays. Even if your pet has never bothered an electrical cord before, be on the lookout for any chewed cords. Electrical cords could electrocute or burn your pet if they chew on or play with them in your home.

Candles and potpourri often smell like food, and your pet might be tempted to try to eat them. While it would be difficult for your pet to eat a candle, they could knock it over and burn themselves or start a fire. Potpourri contains essentials oils that can cause skin irritations and gastrointestinal problems. Some essential oils are even toxic to pets.

Be cautious bringing plants and flowers into your home around the holidays. Many holiday staples are poisonous to pets. For example, lilies, poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly need to be kept away from pets. Even your Christmas tree could cause problems. The chemicals in the water used to keep live trees looking nice are harmful to pets.

Food Safety: There are some human foods that dogs and cats shouldn’t eat. While you are likely aware of the big-name no-no’s like chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, and alcohol, other foods can also be problematic. Other toxic foods include uncooked bread dough, which contains yeast, and xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can be found in many sugar-free candies and some peanut butters.

Cooked bones can also cause problems for pets. They could splinter in your dog or cat’s mouth, esophagus, intestines, or stomach. Bones can also cause choking or blockages.

Even foods that don’t seem inherently dangerous can cause problems for dogs and cats. For example, foods that are high in fat can cause an upset stomach or pancreatitis (a serious issue).

For all of these reasons, it is best to keep human food away from your pet. You can also ask any guests in your home to keep human food out of reach of your pets. It is important to be mindful of what your pet could get access to during holiday gatherings. Try to keep all food and drinks on high tables and pushed back on countertops.

If your pet seems unusually stressed during large gatherings, you can speak to your veterinarian about treatment options. In some cases, your veterinarian may not have the resources to treat your pet’s anxiety alone. If that is the case, ask your veterinarian for a referral to GCVS for further treatment. We can be reached at 713-693-1111 for referrals. Also, if your pet experiences any kind of emergency during the holiday season, our emergency clinic is open, and we are ready to help treat your pet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dec 12