The holidays are a wonderful time of the year seeing old friends and spending time with family, but it can also bring on stress not just for you, but for your pet as well. Many pets experience anxiety for many different reasons and the severity of their anxiety can vary as well. All forms and severity of anxiety can be addressed and treated to make their and your life more peaceful.
First, let us talk about some signs of anxiety. Our pets, just like people, each show anxiety in their own way and experience anxiety for many different reasons. Some of the most common signs of anxiety are trembling/shaking, urinating or defecating, persistent vocalizing, salivating, pacing, hiding or freezing, panting consistently when not in a hot environment, persistently holding ears back against their neck or holding their mouth in a submissive grin, or even being destructive.
Any of the signs above may occur in response to anxiety-inducing events or stimuli such as noise, new or unfamiliar people, new babies, new objects in their environment, changes in their routine, when we leave, punishment, or outside stimuli. Obviously, some of these are more common during the holiday season. We will discuss some tips to help with your pet’s anxiety for the holiday season as well as for other times of the year.
Animals, like most people, are creatures of habit and like routine. With company coming and/or travelling, routines change. Providing a predictable environment as much as possible will help with anxiety. Making sure meal times stay the same or providing one on one time whether it is a short walk around the block, some playtime, or a snuggle on the couch while you watch your favorite TV show can all be ways to keep your routine the same. Your pet will enjoy the time spent with you as well as relieving some stress for yourself- let’s be honest… they are not called companion animals for no reason. Our pets can feed off our stress as well so spending some time alone with no distractions may be good for the soul for all.
Whether hosting a party or the family dinner at your home, it is good to provide a special space for your pet. I usually suggest a room that the company is not allowed in. Your pet’s special blanket/bed or toys should be available for them to play with. This way they can escape all the noise, new people, and kids that can overstimulate your pet. Also, we have a tendency to punish our pets more when company is over because we want them to be on their best behavior too. Having a calm place for them to escape can decrease their anxiety so we are not so worried about them and our guests.
There are many products out there to help with the pet’s anxiety. Many of these products can be used together. The hardest part of anxiety is finding the product(s) that works best for them. What works for one may not work for another. Since there are so many products out there we will discuss some products that have research to back them and/or have had a high success rate over the years.
Over the counter Products
- iCalms: a small speaker that plays calming classical music for dogs or cats. Have many different music chip inserts to provide different sounds. All music selected is based on research.
- Zencrate: crate that automatically detects when an animal goes inside and will start playing calming music based on research studies.
- Essential Oils: many different oils out there can talk with your essential oil distributor or our own technician Courtney for tips. Essential oils can be applied to bedding, bandanas, on the pet or put in a diffuser. As the pet inhales the aroma it causes a calming effect.
- Rescue Remedy (Pet Calm): A oral supplement that can be dribbled on the food provides a calming effect. Available at most health food stores.
- Harmonease for dogs: contains Magnolia officinalis and Phellobendron amurense extract. Available at most health food stores.
- Anxiety TFLN: Available by HomeoPet. They also have training materials.
- Thunder Shirt: A shirt that applies constant pressure to help calm and relax your pet.
- Storm Parties: giving extra special treats, toys, blanket or shirt during a storm will help train that this a special time and not something to fear.
- Desensitizing: For thunderstorm/noise anxiety buy a soundtrack and play it super loud for about 5 minutes then let your pet calm down this may be later that day or maybe a day later. Once the pet is relaxed play the soundtrack again at a low volume so that the pet is not showing any signs of anxiety. Do this for about 5 minutes 2-3 times a day for 3-5 days. Each time you play the soundtrack increase the sound little by little until no reaction occurs.
- Appeasing Pheromone: this is a pheromone that mothers release with there young to calm and relax them. Available in collars, sprays, or diffusers. Some bands are DAP/Adaptil for dogs, Feliway for cats, or NutureCalm available for dogs and cats. Veterinary products but may be able to find at some pet stores or online.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is good for many things from helping with anxiety to pain and inflammation.
- Solliquin: All-natural veterinary based product good for separation anxiety and noise anxiety.
- Royal Canin Calm Diets: For those pets with severe anxiety including a calming diet into there routine can help decrease the dose of nutraceuticals a pet may need or even prevent needing them at all.
- Anti-anxiety medications: prescription medications to help in severe cases of anxiety.
I hope you all learned something about pet anxiety during the holidays and how to deal with it. If you have any questions about your pets and their anxiety during the holidays, please contact us and we’d be happy to help.
We at P.A.W.S. Pet Hospital wish everyone a warm and loving holiday season.
Demi Shukas CVT