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Keep pet anxiety at bay this Christmas

The festive season is upon us, and that usually brings a lot of exciting prospects: from the family gatherings to the travels, parties, bustle around the house and lively decorations. For our pets though, this will mean a change to their routine and a lot of stimulation to process.

Signs of stress and anxiety

Recognising any unusual behaviours can help you deal with any stress or anxiety that your pet may be going through. For example, common signs in dogs include: panting, irritability, aggression, excessive barking, avoidance (like hiding and withdrawing) and body language such as ears pinned back and cowering with their tail between their legs.

Some common signs in cats include: hiding, trying to get away, diarrhea, constipation, constant meowing and aggression.

A less obvious sign is displacement. These are reactions that are out of context, like yawning when not tired, excessive grooming or biting.

Welcoming guests

Even the most social of pets can become overstimulated when we welcome several people into our home – imagine what it must be like for the more timid souls! But there's no need to worry, a situation where 'the more, the merrier' is possible with a little preparation.

First, give your furry friend a safe place to retreat to should they wish to excuse themselves from the celebrations. This can be a quiet room with food, water and toys (plus a litter box for cats). Or create a 'safe haven' that's hidden from view, like under a table.

Ideally, keep your pet in a separate area until all guests have arrived and the initial excitement has subsided. Then, introduce him or her to the party when they are calm. Having a designated family member to check on your pet throughout the event can be of huge help, so don't be afraid to ask for volunteers!

Be mindful of children in the house, too. The little ones tend to get over excited around pets, so take a moment to suggest they remain calm and let your pet come to them when they are ready.

Offer toys and some of their favourite treats to keep your furry friend busy. This is the time to stuff the KONG toy they love with treats or crack open that gourmet pouch you've been saving for days.

Fireworks and New Year's Eve

Every pet owner knows how terrifying fireworks can be to animals. In preparation for Christmas and New Year's Eve, follow this simple checklist to see your pets through the fireworks:

  • Walk dogs prior to nightfall
  • Keep your pet indoors and ensure there's a quiet area in the house to shelter from the noise
  • Close windows and doors, draw curtains and lock pet flaps
  • Turn on the radio or TV to muffle the sounds of fireworks

You can read more about coping with fireworks in this article.

Travelling with pets

If you're spending Christmas away from home and your pet is coming with you, take an item that will smell familiar to them. This can be their bed, a blanket or their favourite plush toy.

Calming products can also help take some of the stress out of journeys and unfamiliar surroundings. Pheromone support is a natural, non-sedative remedy that uses synthetic pheromones to help reduce anxiety and stress. Our vets recommend Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs). And if needed, these can be combined with a calming supplement, such as Zylkène – a natural remedy that has a calming effect and is derived from milk protein.

We recommend using pheromone support from around two weeks prior to the event. That way, your furry companion will benefit from the gradual effects of the pheromones from their diffuser or collar. In addition, the Adaptil or Feliway spray can be sprayed inside your car 15 minutes prior to travel for additional support.

As useful as these practical tips may be, remember that your attitude is important, too. If there's anything that'll make your furry friend feel at ease, it's your patience, understanding and positivity. Here's to a very happy holiday!