In a few short days, 2016 will come to a close. If it’s been a year you’re happy to see end, you’ll likely be celebrating. As will your friends and neighbors who are happy to turn the page on the calendar.
With all that celebrating there’ll surely be noisemakers, fireworks, loud music and maybe some hootin’ and hollerin’ in your home or your neighborhood.
Although the carousing may be a release for us, our pets don’t feel quite the same way. For them, loud noises can be terrifying and anxiety provoking, making New Year’s Eve less than enjoyable for our furry family members.
If you have a seriously anxious pet, they may tremble, hide, pace or pant. With moderate anxiety your pet may lick their lips and yawn a lot.
Knowing you have an anxious pet enables you to be proactive and prepare. Here are 12 things you can do to minimize your pet’s stress.
1) Confine your pet to a safe place. If your pet is crate trained, they’ll probably be comfortable there. But if your pet isn’t crate trained, now’s not the time to try it. Instead, put them in a safe room where they can’t get themselves into trouble.
2) Play relaxing classical music or the television at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out the frightening noises, but not too loud to cause more anxiety.
3) Spray lavender oil on your pet’s bed or favorite blanket. Or just let them smell it.
4) Try canine or feline pheromones that help your pet feel safe. These come as plug-in room diffusers or sprays.
5) Talk to your vet about ProQuiet, a chewable tryptophan tablet that works for cats and dogs. Sileo is a prescription medication for dogs that reduces anxiety without sedation. Ask your vet if it’s right for your dog.
6) Take your dog out for as much exercise as possible before the festivities begin. And keep your cat moving with toys and laser pointers before the evening gets going. They’ll be too tired to be stressed.
7) Try desensitizing earlier in the day or a few days before by making loud noises, blowing the noisemakers, and clanking the pots and pans. This may not work for extremely anxious pets.
8) Try a pressure point coat like ThunderShirt. These jackets put constant gentle pressure on a dog’s pressure points and promote a sense of calm by creating the sensation of being held.
9) Distract your pet with food puzzles or some new toys. Spritz a new toy with catnip to keep your cat engaged. And I never met a dog that didn’t love a Kong stuffed with peanut butter.
10) Allow your pet to follow you around if that helps them stay calm. If that’s not possible or you’re going out, hire a pet sitter. This is particularly advisable if your pet is extremely anxious.
11) Some say you shouldn’t comfort or coddle a frightened pet. It will reinforce their negative behavior. But some say it’s okay to show calm affection. I’m personally in that camp. If you were scared, wouldn’t someone speaking soothingly calm you down? When your pet is calm, reinforce that behavior with treats. And always stay calm yourself so your pet sees that everything’s okay.
12) Leave the neighborhood for a quieter place if possible.
One or two of these alone may not work. You may have to try several of them to have any effect on your pet.
In spite of your best efforts, you may come home to damage if you leave your pet alone on New Year’s Eve and there’s a ruckus in your neighborhood.
Whatever you do, don’t scold them! Your pet needed an outlet to express their anxiety. Or they may have been trying to escape from it.
What if your typically calm pet unexpectedly becomes anxious on New Year’s Eve? This can happen as pets age. Especially if they suffer from health problems or the dementia I wrote about in my last article.
Awareness can go a long way in minimizing your pet’s stress. It allows you to plan if you know you have an anxious pet.
But there are also things on the list you can do if your normally relaxed pet starts to unravel. Look out for the signs your pet is melting down and confine them to a safe place. Play calming music. Give them a stuffed Kong toy. And sit with them for a while.
In some pets, the anxiety is so severe they hurt themselves. They may bloody their paws trying to escape out a closed door or possibly even jump from a window. And never tie up your anxious dog outside. They can injure themselves trying to escape the tether and runaway.
Always be sure your pet has a collar on with identifying tags and that they are micro-chipped, in case they get loose.
It’s unfair to let a pet suffer. Talk to your vet if you know you have an anxious pet.
For humans, the holiday season is a time for joyful celebration. But we rarely consider what our pets think of all the hoopla. We can make the festivities enjoyable for all our family members with a little planning.
A happy and healthy 2017 to you and your pets!
How do you keep your pet calm when they’re frightened of noises? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.