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Happy Holidays for Pets

December 15, 2015

It’s hard to believe with our recent warm weather, but the holidays are upon us! While we gather with friends and family to celebrate, remember that holidays can be a stressful time for our pets. House guests, party guests, changes in routine, and our own tension can all affect our pets’ emotions and behavior.

Do not be surprised if your pet “acts out” during this time. Dogs may have regressions in housetraining or backslide into chewing inappropriate objects. Cats may urinate outside the litter box or display tense or irritable behavior. These are manifestations of stress and inner conflict, and working to maintain as normal of a routine as possible for your pet while you celebrate the holiday and provide plenty of attention and exercise can help prevent problems.

Some pets are uncomfortable with the noise and activity of a gathering, especially if it involves people they don’t see frequently or age groups they are not used to (children, seniors). If your pet is on the shy side, consider setting up a safe and private haven for him in a room separate from your guests. Provide food, water, litter box (for cats), something to chew or a food dispensing toy (for dogs), and a familiar bed or blanket. If your dog uses a crate, place the crate in the room. Cats may appreciate a cardboard box to hide in. Turning on talk radio or playing soothing instrumental music can provide some background noise. Remember to offer your dog frequent potty breaks, as the excitement may cause her to need to eliminate more frequently than normal. Some pets may benefit from calming supplements or medications.

Remember, too, that even pets who love being the center of attention and meeting new people may have their limits. Monitor to make sure guests are not giving your pet inappropriate food or drinks, and do not allow children to tease or be rough with your pets. Just like we can get tired and grumpy, pets can reach a point where they have had enough company and need to leave the party. Keep an eye out for body language that indicates your pet needs a break. For dogs: Excessive or frantic panting, looking or turning away from guests instead of engaging them, frequent lip licking, pinned back ears, visible stiffening or tension are all signs of stress. If ignored, dogs may progress to growling or snapping. For cats: Ears sideways or back, twitching tail, dilated pupils, staring, hunching, puffed fur are all signs of stress. Again, if these early signs are ignored they may progress to hissing, growling, swatting, or biting. If you see signs of stress, remove your pet to a private space as described above.

With a little foresight, the holidays can be a fun and safe time for everyone: Ourselves, family, friends, guests, AND our pets. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the clinic to speak to one of the doctors.

Karen Christopherson, DVM CVA

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