Festivities May Be Upsetting for Pets

The holidays are great fun, aren’t they? Singin’, dancin’, and carryin’ on. For you and me, sure, but maybe not for everybody. Badly unsettled pets can engage in some unhealthy behaviors because they’re nervous or scared. It’s part of our job as caring pet owners to help them feel better.

You’ll need to be observant. Tense body postures around visitors or startling at sudden noises, hiding, freezing with ears flattened, the head low, and the tail tucked are important clues. Scared dogs may lick their lips and yawn. Highly stressed cats might over-groom.

Worried pets need a break from the action. Hide boxes for cats and out-of the-way resting areas for dogs can help. A food toy loaded with your dog’s favorite treat, like peanut butter, will focus her brain on something enjoyable. Give her the toy when your guests arrive and pick it up when they leave so she learns that great things happen for her while you party hearty in the other room. Playing classical music can mask the racket coming from other parts of the house.

A safe, chewable nutritional supplement, called Zylkene, can help. Start giving it a couple of days ahead of the commotion to preempt the hand wringing. For longer periods, like the holidays, your cat or dog can take Zylkene until you’ve boxed up the last of the mistletoe-which, by the way, is toxic to pets.

We’re all busier this time of year, making it hard to find extra time to manage a nervous dog. If yours is hunkered down and acting small you can add fun to his holidays with extra play and exercise-away from the festivities. Even a few short walks every day or a trip to the dog park can make a difference.

Pets snacking on Christmas plants can dampen the spirit. According to veterinary toxicologist Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, “Poinsettias have an irritating sap that can cause (stomach, intestinal) upset but is not going to be life-threatening. American mistletoe is also a GI irritant and although it does contain compounds that are cardiac depressants, it is extremely rare to see any clinically significant effects in dogs or cats.” Do your best to keep these plants out of the grasp of your pets. Your veterinarian needs a holiday break too.