Is your pet afraid of fireworks?

Fireworks night is now a month-long nightmare for most pet owners, with your dogs and cats spending most of the time under your bed, or trying to hide behind the TV. Each year the event gets bigger and your pets’ anxieties get worse. This in turn means that the darker nights become a trigger for your pet, and as early as October your pet may be getting worried about being left on their own.

Here are a few simple tips and products that could help your pet feel less stressed throughout the Autumn and Winter months and maybe this year, the whole family can enjoy a happier November 5th.

How you can help:

It is important to remember that, if your pet is getting worried, panting, trembling and trying to climb on your lap, you ignore this behaviour. Try not to reassure them by saying things like ‘it’s OK’ or ‘Good Boy!’ as this, along with stroking them, will only reinforce the anxious behaviour, they will then think this is how you want them to act in times of stress. This is a case of being ‘cruel to be kind’, they are best left to sort themselves out.

1. Create a safe haven

The first thing to do early on (i.e. October) is to provide your pet, especially dogs (cats tend to do their own thing), with a shelter. You can use a dog crate or build your own cave-like area.

The important thing is to erect the shelter in a quiet part of the house, not in a busy area and where outside noise is not as easily heard. The shelter needs to be covered to make it dark and have lots of bedding in it so that your pet can dig if they are scared.

If you know where your cat would hide in times of stress you can create a similar area there. Then you need to encourage your pet to use this shelter. Feed them in it, give them treats and praise them any time you see them using the shelter. Hopefully this will encourage them to use it when feeling anxious.

2. Pheromones to comfort and reassure

An Adaptil diffuser plugged in near the shelter has been proven to help dogs to cope better during fireworks (Feliway for cats).

Adaptil is a natural canine appeasing pheromone that has been proven to help support dogs in times of stress. The pheromone is released by the bitch when she has puppies to calm them. CEVA Animal Health have produced a synthetic copy of this pheromone in a diffuser, spray and collar. The Adaptil collar can be worn from Mid-October, because it lasts a month and will help your dog to feel calm every where it goes, indoors or out, for the whole of the fireworks season.

Feliway is the feline alternative. Feliway is a copy of a cat’s facial pheromone which they use to mark their territory and helps to make them feel secure. This comes in the form of a spray or diffuser.

3. Natural calming aids

There are two products available for dogs and cats which have been shown to calm them in times of stress:

Zylkene is a natural milk protein in the form of a palatable powder to be given once daily with food. It is best to start dosing at least 2 days before an anticipated event and then to carry on throughout the season.

Calmex is a mixture of amino acids, plant extracts and vitamins which have a mild sedative effect as well as reducing anxiety. It acts within 30 – 60 minutes so is ideal to use in emergency situations! However, it should not be used with some prescription medicines.

4. On Bonfire Night

Once all these measures are in place the next step is doing the right thing on the day. Firstly, make sure you walk your dog early afternoon to prevent them hearing fireworks when outside, this will also help to tire them. Bring your cat in early and lock the cat flaps. Make sure you move any small animal, i.e. rabbits, into a secure shed or garage and cover the hutch to dull out noise.

Feed your pet a large meal one hour before an expected display, adding carbohydrates like rice or pasta, which will help to fill your pet and make them sleepy. Finally, all relax, sit down and put the television or radio on as a distraction.

If after doing all of the above your pet is still very stressed, please telephone the surgery on 01380 728505 to make an appointment to discuss medical options with the vet.

5. Sound Desensitisation

To really help your pet to cope with this distressing problem, sound desensitisation is the best solution. Come and see our nursing team in early summer to learn more about this therapy.