Help Your Pets Cope With Holiday Stress

Armen Hareyan's picture

Some family pets may need extra care to reduce holiday stress, according to a health department spokesperson.

'Your pets will most likely react to the holiday changes in your shared household, as the decorations go up, the holiday party food comes out and the many family and friends visit your home,' said Ella Boyd, VMD, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator.

'At this special time of year we want to make sure our animals are well prepared to meet the surprises of the season,' said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Board of Health. 'Pets can often become curious or frightened when confronted with new sights and smells that are not part of their normal routine.'

'Pet owners should follow these timely steps to help their pets get through the season in great shape,' said Dr. Boyd.

* Some holiday plants, such as poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and lilies should be kept out of reach, as they can lead to health problems in cats and dogs.

* Many pets will be curious about the holiday tree. Take care with tree decorations. Animals may think some decorations are toys you placed for them and will be tempted to bite or chew them. Cats especially are attracted to tinsel, which can block intestines if ingested. Cats also may think of a holiday tree as an ideal climbing post. Be sure your tree is anchored to the floor and tied back with fishing line if in a room where cats can roam.

* Place a tree skirt around the base of your tree, covering the water storage area so animals won't be tempted to drink from it. Holiday tree water can contain preservatives or harmful bacteria.


* Securely tape tree light cords to the floor. Animals may consider loose cords as play toys and be tempted to bite into them. Also never leave your tree lights on when leaving a pet home alone in the house.

* Cats especially can become stressed when their normal routine is disturbed. Be sure to keep the litter box in a quiet area that is familiar to your cat, and check it frequently.

* Have a safe haven for your animals to retreat to, should the excitement of holiday crowds cause stress or discomfort. Also, assure your animal has up-to-date tags on its collar in case it should run outside when doors are opened for visitors.

* Remind your guests to avoid feeding party food to your pets. Candies, especially chocolates, can cause mild to severe illnesses and reactions in pets. That goes for fatty meats, poultry bones and skin and of course, alcoholic beverages.

* Maintain as close as possible the usual feeding and playtime or exercise schedules for your pets..

* If a pet becomes stressed, it will need more water. This is especially true for dogs, which pant when stressed. Assure your family's pet has plenty of fresh water on hand.

* Remove tags, ribbons and bag handles from discarded gift wrap that can choke or harm your pet, prior to letting the pet play in the gift wrap pile.

* If using candles during the holidays, make sure they are in an area safe from coming into contact with pets. And never leave a burning candle in an unattended room.