Healthy Living: Reducing Your Pet’s Stress During the Holiday Season

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The holidays are so special and for good reason. Family and friends who haven’t seen each other in so long gather together to eat good food, play games, and make new memories. I love to host and tend to use my extended family as testers for new recipes. With so much family out of town, we open our home to as many people as we can possibly fit.

For the average family, the holidays bring a much-needed change from the routine, and a shift in focus from the usual work-life hustle and bustle to family, friends and those meaningful relationships. We move furniture around and decorate the tree. We string up lights outside. And the home becomes filled with festive holiday decorations. We spend hours and days shopping for food and gifts for those we love. And when the holiday finally arrives, our home fills with family and friends, love and cheer.

But all of this change can be nerve-racking to our pets who thrive on routine and normalcy. With unfamiliar people, spaces change, new sounds and smells, and longer absences of their people companions, you might find your pet isn’t enjoying the holiday quite as much as you are despite your best intentions.

Because our routines change so greatly at the holidays, it’s important to be able to identify behaviors of a stressed pet. It may be subtle, but your pet will tell you how they feel through body language.

Below is a list of visual cues to watch for:

  • Restless pacing with seemingly no destination
  • Constant, unfocused looking around
  • Shaking when the room isn’t cold
  • In cats, excessive grooming, and in dogs, excessive licking
  • Increased long yawning. This looks different than the normal short tired yawns
  • Greater than normal drooling or panting when the room isn’t too warm and no recent exercise
  • Unwarranted whining or barking
  • Wide eyes showing more than normal whites of the eyes, dilated pupils, or increased blinking
  • Cowering body posture with body weight resting on the back paws often accompanied by a tucked tail
  • Digestion issues including vomiting, increased urination, runny stool (which often will come later on), or eliminating outside of designated areas (especially in cats) such as the litter box

The best treatment to your pet’s unease is to address it ahead of time. Providing treats as a soothing mechanism during the stressful situation could send your pet mixed signals that you reward worried or uneasy behavior. And removing them could only further your pet’s distress by making them feel isolated.

Here are a few things you can do to help prepare your pet and reduce emotional and mental discomfort, and still enjoy your holiday to the fullest:

  1. Train your pet young! Good puppy training is invaluable to a pet’s lifelong well-being and is beneficial for both your pet and you. Training will teach you to be the leader your pet is looking for. Once “dominance” is established, your pet will look to you for guidance on how to deal with situations, thereby reducing stress during tense situations. And if your pet is a little older when you adopt her, that’s ok too! Old dogs can learn new tricks!

    Pet training will include socialization, with other pets and people. Introducing your pet to other animals and people early on will give her the emotional tools she needs to understand appropriate behavior and reduce fear of new people.

  1. Create a quiet space for your pet. Most trainers will tell you to dedicate a “safe space” for your pet in your home, whether it be a safe room out of the way like the laundry room, a crate, or simply a peaceful corner that your pet can find her toys and a cozy bed. If your pet’s designated area is in the main room, keep this space clear when moving furniture and adding your holiday decorations to retain a semblance of familiarity.
  2. Maintain your regular routine. As creatures of habit, pets thrive on consistency. To the best of your ability keep feedings on schedule and at the same time and place as usual, and maintain your pets regular bedtime. If you have a regular exercise routine, don’t skip walks. In fact, it might be nice to take a friend or two with you around the neighborhood to admire the holiday decorations and lights.
  3. Don’t skimp on your one-on-one quality time. When hosting, cooking and enjoying your company, it’s important to remember your pet still looks to you for love and affection. A simple game of ball toss, a tummy rub and some snuggles on the couch might just be what she’s looking for in emotional support.
  4. Take a break from your preparations and play! A tired pet will be a bit calmer. We all know exercise releases endorphins in humans. But did you know that exercise does the same for your pet? It sure does! Before your celebrations begin, take a few minutes to play outside, run around, play ball. You both will enjoy it!
  5. Ask your guests to not feed your pet. Even though your pet may beg (that’s a tough one to train), ask your guests to help keep the party food out of reach. Many of the foods we humans eat such as grapes and raisins, alcohol, onions and garlic, certain nuts, and dairy are not good for, and can even be poisonous to dogs. Avoid tummy problems and even emergency vet trips by asking your guests to not share food with your pet.

    Additionally, keep party waste put away. As a good host, it’s very tempting to put a trash can in the corner for easy access for your guests to help reduce mess on the counter. But that trash can in the corner is out of sight and out of mind, making it an easy target for your pet when the humans haven’t been sharing. Instead, let everyone know where the in-cabinet or under-the-sink waste basket is and appoint a good friend to help you on clean-up duty.

  1. Try Hemp Extract Oil! Hemp Extract Oil can be used in conjunction with and enhance steps 1 through 6. It’s easy to administer by either mixing it in your pet’s food or giving it to them orally as a treat. Hemp Extract works best for pets after it’s had the opportunity to build in their system over at least a couple weeks. Consistency is key to enhance efficacy of this natural alternative.

Many people use Hemp Extract Oil for pets to help keep them playful, improve mood, relaxation and sleep, relieve separation insecurity, muscle and joint discomfort, and digestive system discomfort. Be sure to purchase Hemp Extract that contains zero phychoactive ingredients.

We love our Hemp Extract Pet Oil Tinctures because it comes in two sizes, for Small Dogs and Cats and for Medium to Large Dogs. They are designed to have a full body effect and taste great! One of our customers was so kind to email us regarding her bulldog who had been having some skin irritation and mood issues. She wrote:

“Strength of Hope for Pets is so wonderful at helping him relax and calm down. I have noticed a real change in his mood. I have been using Strength of Hope for Pets for over a month now and my dog has really calmed down a lot…I am very impressed with these high-quality pet products!! I am very picky when it comes to my fur baby and what I give him. This is one product line I will definitely recommend to others!!!!! Thanks!” 

~Cathy B.

Strength of Hope Pet Oil Tinctures can be purchased on our website by clicking here or selecting Shop in the banner above.

Hopefully these suggestions will help make the holidays brighter for you and your pet companions this year! Happy holidays from our family to yours!

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