With the holiday season already upon us I am sure a lot of you are already experiencing a lot of stress yourselves. Don’t forget that our canine companions feel our stress as well as their own – from 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.
Have you noticed dog(s) licking his paws, acting more clingy, yawning a lot or pacing around unable to settle and rest in one spot? These are just a few symptoms that your dog is feeling stressed too. If your family includes cats, you find they will hide under the bed more often or fail to use the litter box routinely when they are under stress.
There are a variety of ways to reduce the holiday stress level for your canine companion.
The first one is just remembering to spend enough quality time with them. This will reduce both their stress and your own. Take a litle time for yourself and your dog to go for a brisk walk or play a few rounds of fetch. After your daily chores and party preparations are done for the day, spend some time just sitting down or lying on the floor with your dog. Pet him, share what you day was like with him, give him a little massage, take time to practice “living in the moment” and leave the holiday hassles behind for just a little while.
If you are unable to spend time down on the floor at their level, you can give them raw meaty marrow bones, a free range bully stick or dried beef trachea to gnaw on to help reduce their stress, “gnawing” is a great stress reliever for dogs.
Play some soothing, calming music for them, especially if you have to be away a from them for a time. Or, while you are away try leaving on a pet entertainment movie for their enjoyment.
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 don’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 for a little time each day with a special treat and a cozy place to curl up and nap. This will give him/her time to adjust to being off by themselves, away from the “room-off-limits” gradually and with a happy transition.
While on the topic of not having access to rooms or areas the dog is used to being in, it is important that your dog has a quiet place to retreat to when you do have guests, such as a bedroom or a crate (they are already used to being in).
Flower essences and/or essential oils are an excellent way to support your companion emotional stability through the holidays or any stressful time. Pet Essences Calming Solution Flower Essence, Bach’s Rescue Remedy and calming essential oils such as Peace & Calming or Stress Away by Young Living are excellent to have on hand for holiday stress or any stressful situation that may arise for that matter.
Safety concerns are another issue you need to be careful of during the holidays. Holiday decorations and cooked food or candy can be dangerous for our companions. If you have newer pets or playful ones, especially puppies and kittens, it is good a good idea to act as if you have a crawling baby in the house. Keep all decorations and tree 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 use a baby gate to keep the animal away from the tree all together. Be sure to cover electrical cords, don’t leave wrapping paper or ribbons lying within reach, and keep candles and candy up on higher tables and shelves, etc. Better yet, don’t use candles at all they are actually toxic to burn for both you and your pets.
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 cooked foods are never healthy for our carnivore companions. NEVER give your dog (or cat) cooked bones! If your dog does manage to get into the holiday food, watch closely for any reaction or symptoms of discomfort. Only Natural Pet Tummy Relief is an excellent remedy to keep on hand for mild cases of diarrhea and stomach upset. Anything sever warrants a trip to the emergency room.
I was just recently made aware that at least two dogs having died from eating small quantities of potpourri. Some people like to put our special potpourri, scented candles or use plug in air freshners with “holiday scents” during the holidays. All of these use fake, synthetic fragrances that are known to accumulate in the body and cause everything from headaches and itchy skin to … Cancer!
If you want to have a nice clean, holiday scent in your home, I highly recommend diffusing pure grade essential oils in a cold air diffuser.
Please make sure you only use essential oils that are labeled safe enough to be used as a supplement when it comes to your pets. Read Here to find out which essential oils that I have used for over 15 years. These essential oils have proven to pure and are the only essential oils I can ever recommen safe to use around pets and are pure, therapeutic grade oils that are actually healthy and boost your immune system and relive stress just by breathing them!
Be sure to keep your dog’s water bowl filled with fresh water at all times as even raw fed dogs will drink more water when they are stressed. You may even be interested in getting a water fountain that filters and circulates the water for your pets! Filtered/purified water is SO much healthier for them than just giving them tap water.
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 Poinsettia, Holly and Mistletoe up and out of reach – These are all toxic when ingested.
Something most of us forget to do is to warn our friends and family visiting, to keep their medications and/or personal care products (and maybe their shoes if you have a chewer) out of your dog’s reach and NOT to feed them anything from the table. If you have a treat jar for your dogs, it is better to show them where you keep it so they only feed them what you know to be safe and healthy for them.
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 that can result.
Dr Jeannie and The Whole Dog wish you and your canine companions a peaceful, blessed, Howl-iday season!