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Pet Anxiety during Human Party Time!

The festive season is on its way, and we have already had Halloween and Thanksgiving for those of us who enjoy American-based holidays. Christmas is less than 40 days away now and most of us are ramping up our preparations for this festive season. 

Whilst the human is happy and excited, what does this mean for our dogs and cats? Do they feel as excited as we are or are they showing signs of stressful behaviour? 

One of the problems with stressful behaviour in our pets during the festive period is that we as humans sometimes do not give enough preparation time prior to the season in order to allow natural remedies (such as Zylkene), pheromones (such as Feliway and Adaptil) or even the use of Thunder Shirts to work properly. Many remedies that are beneficial do need some time, ie: a few weeks, before they can be seen working (ThunderShirt excepted) within the home environment. 

Stressful behaviour can also be hard to spot in our pets as sometimes only very minor observational cues are shown. We should be pleased to see these signs, however small they may be as this means your pet would rather display these than show fearful aggressive behaviour such as biting. Pets will display generally one of the following:

  1. Classic anxiety - such as a tail between the legs, low tail with the tip wagging or ears pinned back with possibly panting present
  2. Displacement behaviour – this is a trickier one as they are basically normal behaviours but carried out in the wrong context. An example would be licking their chops when no food is present, sudden biting/nibbling at a body part, scratching when not itchy or even yawning when not tired! Basically your pet would rather be doing something else (such as leaving the room) but is suppressing the need to do it.
  3. Avoidance behaviour – such as your dog leaving the area when annoyed or in an uncomfortable situation, turning their head away, barking whilst moving backwards, hiding behind objects or even rolling onto their back. Those nature programs are correct, this is a sign from your dog telling you not to hurt them! Incredible but true.

Finally, please pay attention to your pet in this festive season, if you see any signs of stress as described above or something similar, consult your vet first to ensure there is no medical condition explaining their behaviour. Once this is done, then please consider the use of non-medical products mentioned in this article and make sure your pet has a ‘safe’ place (a crate, mat or separate room) to go to if needed. It is also important to stress that no-one in the family should disturb your pet whilst they are in this safe zone. 

So, bring on the festivities, invite friends over, redo the house in anticipation of the added guests but please please do not forget your furry friend until the day before Christmas. The time to act is now.