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How to Spot Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time, and not just for humans. You’ve got a lot of planning, cooking, cleaning and shopping to do – and your pets pick up on the changes in behavior around the house. But with a little awareness of what can stress out your pet, and what signs of stress to look for, you can help make the holidays a happier time for your whole family.

The most common disruptions during the holiday season are sensory. The holidays introduce a lot of new noises – holiday music, doorbells ringing more frequently, pots and pans clanging, phones ringing, new noisy toys, and more voices making more noise. Holiday scents can contribute to this, with anything from seasonal air fresheners to fireplaces to Christmas trees changing the smell of the house.

Another common disruption are strangers – your guests – that your dog hasn’t met before. Party guests, long-term house guests, and visiting family can be stressful for your dog depending on their socialization levels. Guests and special occasions can also lead to rule changes that can be confusing for dogs who are used to begging at the table or sitting on the couch. And, of course, with everything going on, dogs are likely to get less attention and exercise – which leaves them energetic and anxious.

If you suspect the holidays are stressing out your pets, check out the Stress Ladder and see if the listed behaviors look familiar. The stress ladder is a scale that measures signs of behavioral issues and can help you and your veterinarian determine how much stress your pet is experiencing.

The easiest way to help your pet manage stress during the holidays is to set up a pet-friendly space in your home that they can retreat to. Make the space comfortable and quiet, and make sure guests know to leave your pets alone if they’re staying there. If you can’t dedicate a space for your pets, make a point to take them somewhere quiet for a little bit to pet them, soothe them, and talk to them.

Nutraceuticals may also help. Zylkene® can help a pet deal with new people, new situations, and new life challenges – just like the kinds the holidays bring. Nutraceuticals like Zylkene® help dogs and cats relax and accept challenging situations without altering behavior or making them drowsy. As always, consult your veterinarian for medical advice if you are concerned about your pet’s behavior.