Updated: Mar 12
So you're hosting a large family gathering and forgot to secure a spot for your pet at the fanciest boarding facility in town. And now, even the smaller boarding facilities that don't have a camera focused on your baby 24hrs a day, are booked also. Or maybe you're leaving town and you don't have anywhere for your pet to stay? Boarding facilities fill up fast, and now that you know this, it won't happen again next year. But what do you do at this point?
Well, now you get to include your pets in your holiday planning. And guess what? You may actually realize it's not that bad. Let's go through a few different pet personalities (can pets have "person"alities? Petalities?) and talk about some different tips that can help ease the stress on both you.
The Anxious Pet
Fido never really did like being around people. But now fifteen of your most boisterous relatives are plowing through the door this holiday season, and this number includes six children. What now?
Firstly, make sure you have secured at least one area of your home, that the dog or cat can use to hide and get away from the noise. Designate this as a safe room and make an easy paper sign that says "Keep Out" or "Quiet Area" for the door. Start allowing your dog to access that safe place before the guests arrive so that you can make sure they are comfortable in that space. Make sure you include their bed, toys, food and water. Maybe even spend some time in the room with them so they associate the room with comfort and fun. Turn on the TV or classical music when guest arrive, so they aren't burdened by the noise (and screaming if you belong to my family).
Second, make sure that you advise everyone, especially the children, not to go in the safe room for any reason. Designate another space for your guest's personal belongings, so that no one is tempted to enter the room. If someone lingers in that room to take a phone call or set down their things, your pet may no longer feel safe.
Third, consider holistic calming options. There are supplements on the market that have a calming effect on dogs and cats that are similar to people eating turkey on Thanksgiving. The supplements can come in the form of a treat and you can combine multiple forms of these supplements. Listed below are just a few of my recommendations.
Anxitane is a natural supplement that can have a calming effect on dogs and cats. It is most often used when dogs suffer from storm phobias. Virbac is not the only brand that uses this calming enzyme. VetriSCIENCE has a similar product called Composure treats. Make sure you get the right dosage and follow the instructions on the package. This is not a prescription item. Click on the link to find it on Amazon.
Next is Zylkene. This one is newer to me and I have limited experience. However, it is also used for storm phobias and anxiety. It has enzymes that mimic nursing in dogs and cats.. Reviews on Amazon support that this works for certain pets. Make sure you get the right dosage and follow the instructions on the package. This is not a prescription item.
ADAPTIL comes in multiple variations, such as wipes and collars. The posted product is a diffuser, that releases dog appeasing pheromones in a room to create a calming effect on your DOG. This can be used to help create the safe room that your dog will be staying in, during your event. You can also use this plug-in together with both of the supplements mentioned above.
FELIWAY is the CAT version of the aforementioned diffuser. Same thing, plug-in and all, but for a cat.
So please don't put an ADAPTIL diffuser in your cat safe room. You can use this with the cat version of the two supplements above also.
Finally, you you want to make sure that your dog looks fashionable in their safe room. So think about outfitting them with one of these ThunderShirts. By creating pressure, this vest has a calming effect on dogs. Think of it like a constant hug. This is also something that many people use for storm phobias, hence the name.
The Over-Friendly Dog that Gets into Everything with Stealth
Yeah, we pretty much know who these guys are, there's one in every crowd. This is the dog that jumps on everyone and who made you to lose your voice last holiday season from yelling "down" and "no". They love everybody! What's the harm in that? Well these guys know how to work a crowd. They know how to beg and get what they want. They know how to sneak out the door, creating an entertaining show, where you are the star and there is a lot of running and screaming.
You can put them in a room, but they are guaranteed to bark the night away. Begging to come out and entertain the crowd. So what do you do? Well you can educate your guests to be careful when entering or exiting your home. You can tell your guests not to feed the dog, because he suffers from pancreatitis, whether or not that is true - it has dramatic effect. You can let him bark, isolated in a room and turn the music up really loud. Or you can think about using a few of the listed tools, which may give off a "crazy dog mom" vibe, but will ensure your pooch is protected.
P.S. Make sure your cat or dog is microchipped before this season. You don't want your stealthy cat sneaking out without a means of identification. You may not even realize they are gone until Black Friday! You may even want to put a Break-Away collar on the cat for your holiday feast, so that he can be identified. For dogs make sure they are wearing a collar at all times.
This looks more harsh than it actually is. And if it stops your dog from needing surgery to remove a turkey bone from the stomach, I think it's worth all the gawking that it will draw in. Your dog can still drink while wearing this, but will be unable to eat anything large and substantial enough to create a blockage. This is called a basket muzzle.
Don't want your guests laughing at your dog with the likeness of Hannibal Lecter? Here's a chance to take the brunt of that humility and wear your dog instead. This is a leash that goes around your waist, to keep your dog with you at all times. It's called a hands free dog leash. If you're having a holiday party maybe you could designate a child to be "The Keeper of The Dog". It's a noble title. With this leash they won't be able to run off and they will be monitored at all times. P.S. This is for inside use only, and be careful so that your dog doesn't drag you down with them!
The Traveling Pet
The biggest thing to know when traveling with your pet, is that they should always be confined or restrained in some way. I know someone whose dog jumped out of a car window on the freeway. And it was a veterinarian (NO. It wasn't me). If you have a larger dog that is too big for a carrier, then I recommend a vest and canine seatbelt.
This safety vest functions similar to a seat belt. It will secure your dog to the seat, by a clip. This is great for those of you who are "hard breakers", like myself. Nothing stays on the seat in my truck. This is also good for larger dogs that do not fit in a carrier.
Also remember to always carry your pet's rabies certificate, in case they escape on the road. And always be prepared for an emergency by having your pets medical records on hand. Medical records are particularly important for pets that have allergies or have had a bad reaction to a medication or anesthesia.
Remember to keep identification on your pet at all times. Collars or harnesses for dogs and break-away collars for cats.
Don't forget to get your pet microchipped and make sure the information that is linked to your microchip is updated!
Have a safe and satisfying holiday season!!!
Watch this 10News Report to learn more about pets and holiday stress (And to see me on TV)
Written with love - Dr. J