This time of year is a time of extra stress with the holidays and all that they entail for us, it’s good to keep in mind that our canine companions feel our stress as well as their own stress from â€“ traveling, extra visitors, more time spent alone while their owners/families attend holiday parties or are out late shopping, and all the extra commotion and change of routine that comes with the holiday season. You may notice your dog licking his paws, acting clingy, or pacing around unable to settle and rest in one spot â€“ these are a few symptoms of your dog feeling stressed. If your family includes cats, you find they will hide under the bed more or fail to use the litter box routinely when they are under stress.
There are a variety of ways to reduce the stress level for your companion.
Remembering to spend enough quality time with them will reduce both their stress and yours. Take a litle time for yourselff and your dog, go for a brisk walk or play a few rounds of fetch, after your chores for the day are done spend some time sitting with your dog or giving him a little massage, take time to practice “living in the moment” and leave the holiday hassles behind for awhile.
Dogs can be given raw meaty marrow bones or cow hooves to gnaw on to help reduce stress â€“ chewing is a great stress reliever for dogs. (The Whole Dog offers several natural chews and bones for dogs).
Many dogs (cats, birds and of course us humans) can be greatly soothed with calming music. Or, while you are away try leaving on a pet entertainment movie for their enjoyment:
Dog DVDs: The Movie for Dogs, and Dog Sitter Volume I and II
If during the holidays your dog will not have access to some rooms or parts of the house he is used to spending time in, please donâ€™t wait until the guests arrive to make the transition, this will only multiply their stress. Instead, block them from the “to-be-restricted” areas a little at a time each day with a special treat and a cozy place to curl up and nap. Do this for a week or so before the guests arrive and invade their territory. This will give “Fido” time to adjust to the “room-off-limits” and “new-person-here” changes all one at a time.
It is important that your dog has a quiet place to retreat to when you do have guests, such as a bedroom a crate (they are already used to being in) or even a closet for the cat if they like to hide away. Remove your shoes or other items to a higher shelf for the holidays and make them a little nest or resting place. (see our great organic beds and sleeping sacks HERE)
Flower essences are an excellent way to support your companion’s emotional stability through the holidays or any stressful time. The Whole Dog offers: Relaxi-Herb Herbal Formula which contains complementary herbs that soothe the nerves and support the animal’s emotional well-being. Homeopathic remedies such as Newton Homeopathics Nervousness i is another very safe way to assist your dog in dealing with stresses. Pet Essences Calming Solution Flower Essence is an excellent supplement to have on hand for holiday stress or any stressful situation that may arise. There is even a great little TREAT you feed your dog called Mellow Mutt that are made with lavender and hops to help your pup maintain a peaceful lifestyle. Grain Free, no hormones, antibiorics, fillers or byproducts!
Safety concerns are another issue you need to be careful of during the holidays. Holiday decorations and food can be dangerous for our companions. If you have newer pets or playful ones â€“ especially puppies and kittens â€“ it is good a good idea to act as if you have a crawling baby in the house. Keep ornaments off the bottom foot or two of the tree and make sure it is well anchored to a wall or the ceiling, or even gate the animal away from the tree, cover electrical cords, don’t leave wrapping paper or ribbons lying within reach, keep candles or up on higher tables and shelves, etc.
I was just recently made aware that at least two dogs have died from eating small quantities of potpourri. Some people like to put our special potpourri during the holidays as they are aware of the dangers of burning scented candles around our pets. If you choose to use potpourri this holiday season (or any time of the year for that matter) please keep it up high away from pets and children.
If you want to have a nice clean, holiday scent in your home, I highly recommend Young Living Essential Oils in a cold air diffuser. These essential oils are pure, therapeutic grade oils that are actually healthy and boost your immune system and relive stress by breathing them!
Be sure to keep your dog’s water bowl filled with fresh water at all times as they will drink more water when stressed.
If you have a fresh Christmas tree in the house, DO NOT let pets drink the water in the tree’s water reservoir. To be especially safe, do not add anything to the tree water like fertilizer or aspirin or chemicals to keep it fresh. And be sure to keep holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe up and out of reach – all of these are toxic when ingested. Something most of us forget to do is to warn visitors to keep their medications and/or personal care products (and maybe their shoes if you have a chewer) out of a petâ€™s reach and not feed them anything. Or show them where the treat jar is so they only feed them what you know to be safe and healthy for them.
Chocolate can be very toxic to animals, so make sure the people treats don’t turn into “pet” treats. It is best to keep your dog’s diet as routine as possible during the holidays. Even though it may be tempting to share all the delicious holiday food with your dog, keep in mind that stress can make their digestive system more sensitive and they may not tolerate the extra goodies as well as they might at other times of the year. If your dog does manage to get into the holiday food, watch closely for any reaction. Call a veterinarian if you see signs of serious vomiting or diarrhea or if the animal develops a fever. For milder reactions, a tablespoon or two of canned pumpkin and do not feed for 24 hours will soothe the digestive tract and let it rest. Only Natural Pet Tummy Relief and is an excellent remedy to keep on hand for periodic cases of diarrhea and stomach upset.
Some families may be boarding their dogs outside the home or hopefully they will be traveling with their families. Donâ€™t forget to take along a stress soothing remedy. For animals that will be boarded, give specific instructions to their caretakers for administration of remedies. Two easy ways to administer flower essences are to simply put the remedy into the drinking water, and to make up a spray bottle containing the remedy and ask the caregiver to spritz the cage or bedding area 4 or 5 times a day. Remember to give the dog whatever remedy you choose for at least 2-3 days before you are scheduled to leave. This will allow time for the remedy to build in their system and give you time to watch for any unwanted effects.
Supporting your canine companion through the stress of the holidays will likely reduce your own stress level as well. By planning ahead and keeping your dog’s needs met ,you can reduce or avoid stress-related accidents and help curb or eliminate the unwanted stress-related behavior of your animals.
If you suspect your dog has ingested broken glass, plastic or other sharp objects, get you dog to a veterinarian right away. Before you go, you may give her supplemental fiber to bulk up the stools and help it pass through her system. Canned pumpkin (1/4 to 1 cup) can help, whole wheat or high fiber bread, or Metamucil (1 teaspoon for a small dog, 1 tablespoon for a big dog). Pure Cotton is sometimes recommended, though it must be used with caution as it can cause a blockage in some animals.
Dr Jeannie and The Whole Dog wish you and your canine companions a peaceful, blessed, Howl-iday season!