As we stare down the barrel of another busy holiday season, we need to set aside time for our four-legged family members. We all feel the weight of the extra social activities in our calendars, and our pets can feel it too, but in the form of anxiety that can cause a change in their behavior.
For us pet owners, we do our best to make sure our pets are safe, fed, vaccinated, really everything we can do for them, but sometimes our focus can be pulled away. While we are engaged in shopping, cooking, visiting loved ones, or anything that disrupts our normal schedule, our furry friends are left feeling uneasy. Having unusual people in your home can cause stress as well. So how can you tell if your pet is feeling a little more anxious? Look to their behavior.
Your pet’s actions can tell you quite a lot about how they are feeling. Are they doing anything abnormal? Has your pet started whining when you go to leave your home? Are they being destructive while you are out? Does your otherwise house-trained animal have a problem with accidents in your absence? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these it’s likely your pet has developed separation anxiety.
“If your pet has started excessive whining or howling, drooling or panting, having accidents, destroying toys, or furniture, or pacing at the door, these could be signs that they are having a hard time in your absence,” says Dr. Rebecca Latham.
Dr. Latham says that pets thrive on bonding with their owners and when that bond is disrupted it can lead to anxiety, which tends to lead to bad behavior. However, you shouldn’t punish them, it’s best to be patient with your pet.Dr. Latham says that pets thrive on bonding with their owners and when that bond is disrupted it can lead to anxiety, which tends to lead to bad behavior. However, you shouldn’t punish them, it’s best to be patient with your pet.
“Your pets just want to spend time with you, and they may be acting out because they are nervous that won’t happen. It’s best to just give them patient and positive attention and to spend as much time with them as possible.”
Unfortunately, anxiety can manifest in other situations arising during the holidays. In other words, it’s not just when you leave. Many of the sights and sounds associated with the holidays can trigger anxiety. Frequent loud noises, visitors, doorbells ringing, and more can cause similar issues or acting out.
Hope isn’t lost however, there are some things you can do to ease your pet and still enjoy your holiday.
Dr. Latham says to keep your pets in a safe space in a quiet room with soft music playing to muffle sounds of revelry. This is considerate of both your pets and guests that may not be used to having pets around. Another good idea is to monitor your guests, especially children who may unintentionally scare or injure your pet. Keeping your pet in a safe area also mitigates the danger that they might escape through an open door or gate.
Keeping them away and giving them positive attention may help but there are other ways to treat the underlying issues.
“A good way to help curb your pet of negative behaviors is to try counter-conditioning. This is done by associating the feared or disliked situation with something the pet really likes. Over time, they will learn something feared will predict something good,” said Dr. Latham.
“If you are going to leave, give them treats or take them for a walk, something they enjoy.” Another tool in your arsenal is a classic distraction. You can try food puzzles, long walks, doggy playdates, or interactive toys, really anything that works for your specific furry family member.
Dr. Latham says it’s really about challenging them mentally and physically, so they are happy and tired.
“Just like humans, when you go to the gym, go for a run, or do an activity you enjoy, your stress decreases and you are living a fuller life. It’s the same for our pets.”
Living that fuller life may mean it’s time to visit your vet, something that a lot of pets and their owners get nervous about. Whether it’s time to get your pet examined or vaccinated, that can cause a lot of stress for everyone involved, but at Heritage Animal Hospital our team is trained in “Fear Free” techniques. These techniques are designed to train healthcare professionals in preventing and alleviating fear, anxiety and stress.
“One of our chief recommendations is to bring your pet into the clinic when you don’t have an appointment, so they can get used to coming in, seeing the staff and getting treats on a regular basis. That way when it is time for them to come back for something more, they haven’t associated the experience with fear alone,” said Dr. Latham.
At the end of the day, they say the goal is to have staff, owners, and pets living as calm a lifestyle they can year-round and with these few tips, you should see a marked difference.
Hilton Head Island is a beautiful place that can be great for activities with your pets, but to help you take the right precautions with your pet this Summer in the Hilton Head heat, we’ve created a guide for you.
Hilton Head Island has beautiful pathways and beaches for you and your pets to explore and enjoy, as well as many pet friendly shops and restaurants. To avoid your good time with your pet getting spoiled, it’s important to understand how to handle different scenarios:
Hilton Head offers miles of bike paths pet-friendly parks and beaches. Because of the size of the population during the Summer months, some conditions for allowing pets may vary based on the time, however the current rules for the beach are indicated below, as well as a list of great pet-friendly restaurants that you can go to.
If you have any issues with your pet while enjoying your time on Hilton Head Island, Heritage Animal Hospital is here to help. With veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and assistants in-house we offer a variety of services for whatever your pet may need, including after-hour services. With their accommodating and welcoming atmosphere, Heritage Animal Hospital would be the perfect place to help you make sure your pet is perfectly healthy, and that you both are enjoying yourselves in Hilton Head this summer.