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By Lia Blanchard

Holiday fervor may stress us out, but for us humans, there’s usually a payoff. We see family and friends that perhaps we haven’t seen in a while, we go to parties, we enjoy the lights and reminisce about holidays past.

Your pet, however, doesn’t care about any of that. To them, the world has suddenly tilted; there’s a giant tree in the house, blinding lights everywhere, funny smells, and people coming and going all the time. All of this chaos can be quite upsetting to any animal, but for our more sensitive furry friends, it can cause severe problems.

Know your pet

Your pet is your best friend – you know what they like and don’t like, and you know what is normal behavior. The best thing you can do is to maintain, as closely as possible, the animal’s regular routine of feeding, exercising, and playtime/bedtime. Even the quietest animal has ways of letting you know they are in “stress distress”. If any of these symptoms are not normal characteristics of your pet, they may be experiencing more stress than they can handle.

  • Sweaty paws leaving visible paw prints
  • Excessive licking or scratching
  • Change in elimination habits – suddenly not using the litter box or not going outside
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Noticeable rumpling or loss of hair or feathers
  • Hiding or refusing to interact normally with you
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Unusual drooling
  • Pacing
  • Change in eating habits – refusing food or water, or overindulging

These are just a few of the possible signs of trouble that our animal companions may display. If any change in behavior causes concern for the animal’s health or endangers the pet or people, call your veterinarian for advice.

General safety tips

Even if they aren’t upset at all, many of the things we humans enjoy during the winter holiday season pose a hazard to animals or to ourselves via our animals.

Food: While we enjoy the spices, chocolate and fatty foods of the season, they are not at all good for our furries – no, not even the bones. It’s simplest – and safest – to not allow your pet to eat people food at all. Make sure those garbage lids are secure!

Décor: Candles are easily knocked over by an excited pet and quickly start a fire. Ornaments, wires, and batteries are all very enticing playthings, but can cause electrical shock, battery acid burn, and cut-up mouths.

Tree: All trees should be very secure to prevent tipping. Water for live trees should be inaccessible to your animal – tree water can contain high levels of fertilizer and bacteria. Tinsel, attractive to many cats and dogs, is notorious for blocking their digestive tracts, requiring emergency surgery to remove.

Plants: Mistletoe, holly, lilies, and many other plants of the season are toxic to our pets. If your favorite aunt always sends a bouquet, gently ask her to choose from a pet-friendly arrangement.

Uh oh...

Uh oh…

A few preventive precautions and keeping to the usual routine will help you and your “fur kid” get through the holidays with as little stress as possible, and probably avoid any heartbreaking trips to the veterinarian.

Next: Being or Hosting a Houseguest with Pets