The New Year is a great time to have fun, relax and celebrate the passing of the year past and ring in the year about to come. It’s also a time of risk for our animal companions: foods that we like an cause vomiting and diarrhea, lots of friends over can make the shy pet anxious and in areas that have fireworks, loud noises can cause anxiety.
American pet advocacy groups point out that the number of escapees is very high with fireworks and result in some of the busiest days for pet shelters as many pets get lost, injured, or killed. In case of injury with loud noises or ingesting foods that don’t agree with your animal companion, have a list of which veterinary practices and/or emergency hospitals will be open during this holiday season.
Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside, and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.
Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him outside on a leash, even in a fenced yard. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost, so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.
Try to keep your pets away from holiday food and alcohol. If difficult or you are throwing an amazing party, consider crating your dog. Our feline friends do a better job of not eating things they shouldn’t. that said, holiday plants such as lilies are toxic to cats. So if people are bringing flowers or plants, check the SPCA’s toxic plant list beforehand.
What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that’s needed. Cats like places they can hide. Something as simple as boxes lined with a blanket may work quite well.
Additionally, synthetic pheromone sprays such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil (formerly called D.A.P.) for dogs are available at pet stores. These come as plug-in diffusers that you can place around your home before holiday events. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens and puppies a sense of well-being.
It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises or having new people over, a short-term sedative before the festivities may be just what you need.
Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the fun begins. Several medications are used for fireworks or thunderstorm phobias in dogs and other sedatives for timid cats. Never use your own prescriptions as the drug as well as the dosage may be harmful.
There are many ways to keep your cat or dog companion safe and secure as your ring in the new year. Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your pet. Then everyone, friends and fur creatures alike can enjoy the holiday!