By: Cate Burnette
Just because New Year’s Eve means a fun party for you, your family and friends, the extra company, loud music and laughter, and subsequent neighborhood fireworks can prove stressful and fear-inducing for your pets.
Help your cats and dogs stay safe and relaxed during the holiday parties by following some of our tips listed below.
1. Keep your pets inside! Many animals find that fireworks, crowds of people and the sounds of partying can be overwhelming, leaving them anxious and frightened. If your dog or cat prefers to spend time indoors quietly playing couch potato, allow her to stay at home on New Year’s Eve where she feels safe.
2. If you must take your pet outside, keep her securely leashed or confined in a crate. Some animals are curious and may want to get at the crowds or the source of the noise. Others will run away from strange people and loud booming sounds. If your dog or cat doesn’t have a secure harness and you think she might easily slip out of a collar and leash, it is probably best she be left safe at home.
3. If you’re travelling, partying away from home and your pet must come with you, find a “safe place” for your animal away from strangers, loud music and chaotic festivities.
4. Make sure your pet is unable to partake of any liquor-soaked foods or sip any type of leftover alcoholic beverages. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, alcohol can be toxic to both dogs and cats resulting in symptoms such as drooling, dry heaves or vomiting, distended abdomen, low blood pressure, weakness and collapse, and possible coma and death. See your vet immediately if you suspect your animal has ingested any kind of alcohol.
5. Watch out for fatty foods (ham, beef and chicken fat and bones, for example) that your furry companion can mistake for an especially tasty treat. Fatty foods can create digestive problems for your pet causing her to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea and bloating. Additionally, when torn apart by teeth, cooked bones have been known to result in torn intestinal, stomach and esophageal tissues. Bones can also get stuck around the teeth and jaws, in the esophagus, stomach and intestines and end in blockages that need surgical intervention to save the life of your animal.
6. Beware of New Year’s decorations, including all of those shiny streamers, noisemakers, bright balloons, and crinkly tinsel. Animals use their mouths and tongues to examine strange new objects and it is too easy and too inviting to swallow those items causing the same kinds of digestive issues noted with bones.
7. Keep your pets’ microchips and vaccination tags up-to-date. Parties mean doors getting opened a lot. Even if you’ve thoughtfully hung a sign on your bedroom door saying ‘Do Not Open,’ or if you have your pets safely contained in a crate inside the bedroom, accidents happen. Make sure your pet ID tags and microchip information has your current address and phone numbers.
8. Keep your animal to her usual feeding, sleeping and elimination schedule. The more closely she adheres to a regular timetable, the less likely she is to feel anxious.
9. Use holistic calming therapies for your pets. Lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, and valerian are natural herbs that can be safely added to your pet’s meals to relax the nerves and allow your pet to feel more tranquil. The Thundershirt ® and Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) have been shown to calm anxious dogs. Feliway® diffusers, similar to DAP, contain synthetic cat pheromones that communicate to your cat in her language and reassure your pet that all is well in her world.
10. Talk to your veterinarian about giving your pet anti-anxiety medications during the holiday. There are several different types of drugs available for animals. Benzodiazepines (usually Valium®) are fast-acting and can be used on an as-needed basis, or combined with longer-acting drugs for a quicker response and when a little more help is needed. There are also over-the-counter meds (particularly diphenhydramine, or Benadryl®) that can be effective. Please note: Do NOT attempt to dose your pet with any type of medication without first consulting with your vet.
11. Exercise or play with your dog or cat during the day to release any excess energy and help her remain calm after dark. The extra workout can also help your pet rest easier and fall asleep faster.
12. House your pet in a quiet room away from the partygoers. Parties can cause excess stress, which could induce accidents, and less than positive behavior that can harm your pet and your belongings. If your cat or dog is more comfortable – or feels safer – in her crate, allow her to spend the evening resting with her toys, games or other distractions. Make sure your pet has free choice water and your cat access to a litter box during her stay in the kennel.
13. Protect your pet from the sounds of fireworks and other loud noises that can cause fear and anxiety. Use positive white noise in a quiet room (wave/rain sounds, classical music) to distract and calm your pet during the loud time of the evening. If your cat or dog watches television, turn on her favorite show to keep her occupied.
14. You might want to consider leaving the neighborhood for the evening and traveling to someplace quieter. If you know for sure that none of the tips here will help your pet’s severe anxiety, pack up the travel crate and all of the other things you will need for an overnight away from home and then take off to a calmer part of town. Do you have friends or family who live in a more relaxing place? If nothing else, you can find an out of the way, pet-friendly hotel to crash in for the night, where you and your little furry one can rest comfortably and noise free.
15. Comfort your dog or cat as needed. Pet and hold your companion, brush her if that makes her feel better, and allow her to sleep under the covers if that allays her fears. You can also teach yourself simple massage techniques that will help keep your pet tranquil. It’s easy to find guides for how to massage your pet to help relax her.
16. If you decide to go out of town for the holidays and want to leave your pet at home, schedule a pet/house sitter from VIP Pets. Each qualified sitter is trained to care for your cat or dog and knows the best ways to calm fearful animals.
Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.