Thankfully, life seems to have gone back to normal this year and for many of us this means going on a much needed holiday or having family stay for the holidays as we all celebrate together. Marycke Ackhurst from Hill’s Pet Nutrition says that planning for your pets during this time is very important.
Whether you’re heading off on holiday or instead are going to be spending it with family at home, we need to consider how our pets will adapt to the changes in their environment. Will there be friends and family visiting and with that lots of laughter and excitement that your pets may not be used to? Will they be going on holiday with you? If not, will they be staying at the kennels or the cattery? Or, will a pet sitter be loving them and looking after them while you are away?
Ackhurst says that all of these changes, along with loud events such as New Year’s Eve, can cause your pets to become extremely anxious. Dogs and cats’ hearing is far sharper, and much more sensitive, than ours so even if there is loud noise quite a fair distance from your home, it could still trigger an anxious reaction.
To identify whether you pet is anxious and nervous, Ackhurst recommends pet parents take the Hill’s pet stress test here as well as looking out for the following signs in your pet’s behaviour:
- Nose or lip licking
- Excessive panting
- Reduced appetite
- Tail lowered or tucked
- Ears pinned back
- Trembling or shaking
- Increased vocalisations e.g. whining, howling, barking
- Excessive attention seeking
- Urinating in strange places
- Scratching compulsively
- Hiding away
- Panicked meows or recurrent whining
- Sleeping more
- Decreased appetite
Ackhurst adds that in dogs chronic stress can cause an upset stomach and, in cats, urinary problems.She advises that there are also a few changes around the home that pet parents can make to help their pets during this stressful time. These are the following:
- Keep familiar noises or sounds playing in the house such as the TV and some background music. The more it seems like an everyday, normal situation, the better.
- Create a comfortable, smaller space in the house for your dog or cat to retreat to when they’re feeling anxious. As a distraction from any loud noises, provide them with a tasty chew toy.
- Keep outside noises and bright lights (like fireworks) at bay by closing the windows, doors and curtains at home.
- For outdoor cats who come and go as they please, rather place a litter tray inside and close the doors and the cat flap, so they can’t go outside that evening.
- If you can’t stay at home with your pets, have someone else they trust there to calm and reassure them – the less changes during this time the better.
- It is always best to introduce the pet sitter to the pets so that they can become familiar with them.
- If you’re dropping your pet off at the kennel or cattery for the holidays, send them with their bed, favourite chew toy and blankie to bring them comfort. This way the change of environment won’t be as dramatic and stressful for them.
- A calming collar, spray or diffuser may help your pet settle in the changing holiday environment.
- Ask your veterinarian about specially formulated foods which help alleviate stress such as *Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Stress for dogs and *Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Stress for cats. For severe cases, they may recommend certain medication.
*If you’re anticipating a stressful event, such as fireworks or even holiday kennels, it’s recommended you transition your pet onto a stress-reducing food four weeks beforehand. However, many pet parents have reported positive results as early as a few days. If your pet is a nervous type, you can consider this food for long- term feeding.
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