Holiday season is about to get started. It is a stressful time for many people, but some may not realize that pets can suffer the same stressful effects, both physically and emotionally.

Stress isn’t just aggravation

Studies have shown a similarity between the effects of stress on our bodies and that of pets. When we are stressed, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol. The same happens 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 similar between people and pets

Over-stressed family members: A pet’s sense of smell is greater than ours and they are able to perceive our adrenaline and cortisol hormones. They look to us as their pack leader; if we are worried, they assume there must be something to worry about and behave accordingly.

 Change in diet: The holiday season can disrupt a pet’s normal diet and feeding schedule. Holiday food is usually richer, higher in fat and more available. In addition, many holiday dishes contain onions, grapes, raisins and other foods that are poisonous to our pets.

 Change in routine: We spend more time away from home shopping and visiting. Walks and feeding schedules may be disrupted.

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

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

 Indicators of Stress in Pets

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

 Ways to Relieve a Pets’ Distress

  • Provide a quiet place for the 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 the dog’s area with lavender essential oil in a diffuser. New guidelines from the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy recommend not to use essential oils in any form around cats and birds.
  • Do not use candles with essential oils, as it may be a fire hazard.
  • Add soothing music to the environment. There is music designed specifically for different species.
  • Give size-appropriate toys for mental stimulation.
  • Keep to their normal diet and feeding schedule.
  • 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 the home; this will benefit the entire household during the busy time of year. But keep them out of reach of chewers. Any brown, black, red, yellow or pink stones are a good choice.

Paying attention to our pet’s stress level over the holiday season and actively taking steps to counteract stress effects on their mind and body will result in a much happier holiday for all. In addition, these changes will have an all-around positive change in our lives throughout the year.

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