As the cheerful greeting of “Happy Holidays” rings out this holiday season, remember that the same happiness may not be experienced by your pet. As families reunite and households become busy with all the plans, the family dog or cat is often left out of the focus. In some ways this is positive since cats in particular are susceptible to household changes which can lead to stress induced illness. Feline lower urinary tract disease, inflammatory bowel disease and various dermatological diseases are three conditions that develop or worsen with stress. Currently environmental enrichment is a term that is used to describe attempts that are made in a feline’s household to minimize environmental imbalance. Scratching posts, climbing toys, isolated litter box locations and social activity are a few of the enhancements that a responsible cat owner should add in order to create a comfortable and stress free home for your pet. If your cat is not used to children or abundant activity these holidays can be most challenging.
Similarly inflammatory bowel disease is one condition of dogs which exacerbates with increased stress in their lives. Dietary indiscretions, hyperactivity in households as well as upset exercise schedules can undo the delicate balance of our canine friend’s lives. Most living things are creatures of habit. Certainly holiday time is one of the most “out of the ordinary” times of year as far as schedules are concerned.
What can we do to take care of our canine and feline friends during this potentially stressful time? First make every effort possible to ensure that our four legged friends’ schedules stays consistent. That includes feeding times, exercise schedules, waking hours and even litter box cleaning. Secondly, if you know that there is going to be a lot of activity in your household and one or more pets don’t tolerate this well, then consider having your pet confined to another part of the house during the activity. If your pet does not respond to children well then ensure that they are isolated from any behavior that they may find upsetting. Finally be very aware of any abnormalities in your pet’s behavior during these times. Inappropriate urination, fecal accidents, episodes of aggression may all be related to an increasing stress level in your home. If you should observe any suspicious signs of illness, seek urgent veterinary care immediately. Don’t ignore symptoms because you think they may pass or because “he is just upset”. Stress related illnesses are very definitely serious. A trip to your local vet for a thorough physical exam may be all that is needed to put your mind to rest. Laboratory evaluations may also be indicated if the signs are of a more varied nature. But above all remember that holiday time for you may be anything but a happy time for your pet. Take precautiions to ensure their safety and long life.