Here's how to ease pet anxiety while traveling over the holidays

·3 min read

The holiday season often means traveling to see family and friends, which can cause a lot of stress for your beloved pet.

“Many things can make pets anxious, especially when they’re put into unfamiliar situations,” veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lippman tells Yahoo Life. So how can you tell if your pet is anxious? Look for these telltale signs:

  • Panting

  • Pacing

  • Vocalization or barking

  • Stress yawning

Whether you’re taking your pet with you on the road, leaving them in the care of someone else while you’re traveling or having a large family gathering at home, here’s how to make it less stressful for your furry friend.

Tips for traveling with your pet

If you’re planning on traveling with your pet in a car or on a plane, Lippman has some advice for keeping them “calm and comfortable.”

  • Familiarize your pet with a travel routine

If possible, start small when it comes to traveling with your pet. “Make sure to take shorter trips before you take a longer one so that they can get used to the motion of the car or the plane and all the hustle and bustle of traveling,” Lippman says.

  • Avoid large meals 1 hour before departure

Lippman suggests avoiding feeding your pet a large meal before traveling. “Being nauseous is a surefire way to make them anxious and uncomfortable,” she says.

  • Give your pet a comfortable space to travel in

“If they’re traveling in a carrier, it’s important that they have room to stand up, sit down, lay down, turn around and be comfortable,” notes Lippman.

Tips for boarding or leaving your pet with a sitter

Heading out of town and leaving your pet with a trusted sitter or boarding facility? Here’s how to help keep your pet calm while you’re away.

  • Don’t make a big deal out of good-byes

Although it can be hard to say good-bye to your furry family member, Lippman says it’s best to keep the send-off short and sweet. Long good-byes “can often make them more anxious,” she notes.

  • Bring their own food and a favorite toy

When bringing your pet to a boarding site or sitter, “make sure to also bring their own food that they’re used to, and bring any items from home that might make them more comfortable,” says Lippman, such as a favorite toy or their pet bed. Another good idea: Bring a T-shirt that you’ve worn recently or a blanket since they hold familiar scents that can be comforting to your pet.

Tips for keeping pets calm when having people over

Holiday gatherings may be fun for people, but for pets, a house full of strangers and loud noises can be stressful. The good news? There are things you can do to make it better for your pet.

  • Create a safe space away from guests for your pet

“If you’re planning on having a holiday party or having people over, one thing I would recommend is making sure that your pet has a safe space, whether that be a crate or a different bedroom — somewhere that they can escape to in case they’re uncomfortable,” says Lippman.

  • Distract them with toys

Puzzle toys or toys filled with treats can help keep your pets busy and distracted from the holiday festivities. You may also want to rethink your holiday party music: “It was also found in a study that classical and reggae music were calming for dogs,” says Lippman. She adds that white noise also has a calming effect and may help drown out the noise of guests if your pet is resting in another room.

  • Use calming scents

“Pheromones are scents that their mothers used to give off when they were young and are clinically proven to be calming for them,” says Lippman. “There are dog and cat pheromones, which come in collar or plug-in form.”

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