Tips to Reduce Your Pet's Holiday Stress

Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

Many of us feel extra stress around the holidays, and it's good to keep in mind that our pets feel our stress as well. They also have their own share of holiday stress, like traveling, extra visitors, more time spent alone while their guardians attend holiday parties or are out late shopping, and all the extra commotion and change of routine that comes with the holiday season.

Signs of Holiday Stress

If you notice your dog is licking their paws, acting clingy, or pacing around unable to settle and rest in one spot, then they're likely feeling stressed. Severe stress can include panting, shaking, cowering and even gastrointestinal upset.

Cats may hide under the bed more or fail to use the litter box routinely when they are under stress.

How to Relieve Holiday Stress

There are a variety of ways to reduce the stress level for your companion. Remembering to spend enough quality time with them will reduce both their stress and yours. Walking the dog, playing with the cat, or just sitting with a purring cat in your lap are excellent ways to practice "living in the moment" and leave the holiday hassles behind for awhile.

Along with quality time, there are a number of natural solutions to make your pet's holiday season a little less stressful.

Supplements & CBD

For the most severe stress and anxiety issues, it's best to consult your holistic veterinarian. However, mild and acute stress and anxiety, especially around the holiday season, can be treated with supplements and CBDs.

Stress and anxiety supplements for dogs and cats are usually a blend of calming compounds, like colostrum and b vitamins, with proven herbs like skullcap and chamomile. These, combined with some ingredients, like hemp, can support your pet's stress and anxiety throughout the holiday season, whether it's dealing with visitors, or travelling.

CBD has been shown to help dogs and cats dealing with both chronic and acute stress and anxiety. Make sure you find the correct CBD dosage appropriate for your pet.

Alternative Therapies

Flower essences are an excellent way to support your pet's emotional stability through the holidays or any stressful time. They combine the energetic essence and effects of flowers into an easy to use tincture. They work fast and don't have any side effects.

Herbal formulas for stress contain complementary herbs that soothe the nerves and support the animal's emotional well-being. They're usually suspended in a liquid base, but take time to build in your pet's system, so they're most effective when used as a course over the holiday season. Homeopathic remedies for stress are popular and another very safe way to assist your companion in dealing with anxiety. They are fast acting and have no side effects, so they're perfect for treating acute stress and anxiety, especially in conjunction with supplements or other remedies.

Treats, Chews & Entertainment

Dogs can be given chews and bones to help reduce stress. Chewing is a great stress reliever for dogs, helps them stay occupied, and some studies have shown that it can be a mild stress relief. When giving your dog natural chews, make sure you supervise chewing and take it away when it gets small enough to be a choking hazard.

If your dog doesn't like chews or bones, interactive toy like the Planet Dog Snoop or Mazee are a great way to keep your dog entertained. Simply fill them up with your favorite natural treat or kibble and let your dog spend their time solving the puzzle. Remember, since they'll be getting some food from this toy, make sure to feed a little less during mealtime.

Although some cats really love chewing, especially marrow bones, it can be harder to keep them entertained with chews. That's why interactive cat toys, like the Moody Pet Fling-Ama-String cat toy, are a great way to keep your cat occupied when they're alone. Catnip can be calming for some cats, but no matter what your cat's response, catnip stuffed toys can keep a lot of cats occupied.

There are a lot of functional treats for dogs and cats to help take the edge off during the holiday season. These usually have smaller dosages of functional ingredients, like CBD and herbs, than supplements. They can be great for dogs and cats with mild anxiety.


Many pets respond well to aromatherapy, but dogs and cats respond different to different ingredients.

When looking for an effective aromatherapy for dogs, ingredients like valerian root and lavender can be very helpful. If your dog suffers from chronic stress and you want to take the edge off from Thanksgiving through to the New Year, a collar clip on can be very helpful. If you're introducing your dog to a new home your visiting, getting ready for a car trip, or establishing a safe space in your own home, an aromatherapy spray can be very helpful

Cats respond well to aromatherapy sprays.

Behavior and Environment

If during the holidays your pet will not have access to some rooms or parts of the house they are used to spending time in, don’t wait until the guests arrive to make the transition, which multiplies their stress. Block them from the "to-be-restricted" areas a week or so before the guests arrive and invade their territory. This will give your pet time to adjust to the "room-off-limits" and "new-person-here" changes one at a time.

Insure that your pets have a quiet place to retreat when you have guests, such as a bedroom or even a closet if they like to hide away. Just move your shoes or other items to a higher shelf for the holidays and make them a little nest or resting place.

Health & Safety During the Holidays

Safety concerns are another issue needing attention during the holidays. Holiday decorations and food can be dangerous for our pets. If you have newer pets or playful ones, especially puppies and kittens, it is good to act as if you have a crawling baby in the house. Keep ornaments off the bottom foot or two of the tree and make sure it is well anchored to a wall or the ceiling, or even gate your pet away from the tree. Cover electrical cords, don't leave wrapping paper or ribbons lying within reach, and keep candles up on higher tables and shelves.

If you suspect your companion has ingested broken glass, plastic or other sharp objects, call a veterinarian. While you are waiting, give them supplemental fiber to bulk up the stools and help it pass through her system. Canned or dehydrated pumpkin can help, whole wheat or high fiber bread, or Metamucil (1 teaspoon for a small dog, 1 tablespoon for a big dog).

Watch your companion’s water bowl closely. Dogs especially will drink more water when stressed, so keep fresh water available at all times. If you have a fresh Christmas tree in the house, DO NOT let pets drink the water in the tree's water reservoir. To be safe, do not add anything to the tree water like fertilizer or aspirin.

Be sure to keep holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe out of reach. All of these are toxic when ingested. Remember to warn visitors as well to keep medications and personal care products (and maybe their shoes if you have a chewer) out of a pet’s reach.

Chocolate can be very toxic to animals, so make sure people treats don't turn into "pet" treats. It is best to keep your pet's diet as routine as possible during the holidays. Even though it is tempting to share all the delicious holiday food with your cat or dog, keep in mind that stress can make their digestive system more sensitive and they may not tolerate the extra goodies as well as they might at other times of the year.

If your dog or cat does manage to get into the holiday food, watch closely for any reaction. Call a veterinarian if you see signs of serious vomiting or diarrhea or if your pet develops a fever. For milder reactions, a tablespoon or two of canned pumpkin along with a bland diet of white rice and boiled chicken can soothe the digestive tract.

Traveling & Boarding During the Holidays

Some companions may be boarded outside the home or will be traveling with their guardians. Don’t forget to take along a stress soothing remedy, like a homeopathic or flower essence. For animals that will be boarded, give specific instructions to their caretakers for administration of remedies.

Two easy ways to administer flower essences are to simply put the remedy into the drinking water, and to make up a spray bottle containing the remedy and ask the caregiver to spritz the cage or bedding area 4 or 5 times a day. Remember to give the animal whatever remedy you choose for at least 2-3 days before you are scheduled to leave. This will allow time for the remedy to build in their system and give you time to watch for any unwanted effects.


Supporting your companion through the stress of the holidays will likely reduce your own stress level as well. By planning ahead and keeping your companion's needs met ,you can reduce or avoid stress-related accidents and help curb or eliminate the unwanted stress-related behavior of your animals

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