Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Holiday Season and Stress in Pets

Nov 03, 2014 05:37PM ● By Mary Oquendo

It’s already November and the holiday season has begun with its higher stress levels for both humans and pets. We know what makes us feel stressed at this time of year, but are you aware of what’s happening for your pets?

Studies have shown a similarity between the effects of stress on your bodies and that of pets. When we are stressed, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol. The same happens too for our pets. When these “stress hormones” are released into a pet’s body, the heart and respiratory rate, as well as the aging process, speed up. In addition, these chemicals inhibit the immune system, reduce blood flow to the brain, and shut down the reproductive system. A secondary effect of a suppressed reproductive system is cardiovascular disease, in both people and pets.

Causes of Stress in Pets

Over-stressed family members: When you are stressed, your bodies release adrenaline and cortisol hormones. A pet’s sense of smell is greater than yours and they are able to perceive these hormones on you. They look to you as their pack leader so if you are worried, there must be something to worry about. 

Change in diet: The holiday season can disrupt a pet’s normal diet and feeding schedule. Holiday food is richer, higher in fat and more available.

Change in routine: You spend more time away from home shopping and visiting.

Extra visitors in your home: Your pet’s senses are in overload. There may be children running around trying to touch them, as well as adults using different or too much perfume or cologne. Your house may be louder than normal with tasty temptations everywhere. Visitors may also include other pets traveling with your guests.

Travel: Visiting out of area friends and relatives is disruptive regardless of whether your pets are boarded or travel with you.

Stress Indicators in Pets

You may notice your pet suffering from depression, restlessness, exhaustion, and lack of appetite. Pets may exhibit aggressive, destructive, or obsessive compulsive behavior. A stressed pet is more likely to bite. Stressed animals may vocalize more. And, as mentioned above, they may experience physical ailments related to the immune, digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems.

Ways to Relieve Pets’ Distress

• Provide a quiet place for your pet to escape. It can be as simple as allowing them to be in a bedroom and closing the door. Cover crates with a sheet for privacy. 
• Infuse your dog’s area with lavender essential oil in a diffuser. Do not use essential oils with cats or other pets with respiratory issues or around birds at all. 
• Do not use candles with essential oils, as it may be a fire hazard.
• Add soothing music to the environment.
• Give size-appropriate toys for mental stimulation.
• Keep to their normal diet and feeding schedule.
• If traveling, plan well. Let’s Go Fido II is an eBook I have written filled with many tips for safe and stress-free traveling, including boarding your pets. 
• Give pets extra exercise. Movements dissipate both adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in calmer pets.
• An energetic space clearing removes built up negative energy that accumulates from day to day living and replaces it with fresh, positive energy. 

Use protective and grounding stones around your home; this will benefit the entire household during the busy time of year. Keep them out of reach of chewers. Any brown, black, red, yellow or pink stones are a good choice.

Over the holiday season, paying attention to your pet’s stress level while actively taking steps to counteract stress’ effects on an animal’s mind and body will result in a much happier holiday for all. In addition, these changes will have an all around positive change in your life throughout the year.


Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All in New Milford. She can be reached at