Fireworks – preparing your pet!
Many cats and dogs are afraid of loud noises. Some may go on to develop a phobia, which means they experience an extreme reaction to a particular stimulus or trigger, such as noise. Phobias get worse over time and most pets don’t tend to ‘grow out of’ a phobia.
Preparation is very important if your pet is to get through firework night or a similar event, with the minimum of fear and stress. Resolving your pet’s firework fear or phobia is all about developing an action plan. Whether you are planning ahead or have left it till the last minute, there is still something you can do to help your pet.
Two Months Before Firework Night
Talk to your vet or vet nurse about your pet’s problem well in advance. They can discus with you the best technique that will be most suitable for your pet. Some of these techniques include:
- Desensitization – This helps pets become accustomed to the noises that trigger their fears such as fireworks. There are a range of products on the market that use specially recorded sounds and simple training methods to enable pets to cope with various sounds at different stages in their lives. This particular technique is extremely beneficial for puppies.
- Pheromones (Adaptil & Feliway) – Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the natural appeasing pheromone the mother dog produces to comfort and reassure her puppies. Feliway is a synthetic copy of the pheromone which helps to reassure and comfort cats in their own territory. Pheromone treatments have been scientifically proven to help both cats and dogs cope in stressful situations such as firework night. They come in various different forms; Plug in diffusers, sprays and collars. Speak to your vet or vet nurse about which is best suited for your pet.
- Herbal Products – Herbal products are very effective in reducing anxiety by calming and relaxing dogs and cats naturally. They are widely used over the firework period. They do not sedate pets but enable them to relax and not be concerned about the noises that would normally cause fear and distress.
One Month Before The Event
Pets with severe phobias will benefit from the introduction of herbal products or Pheromone products to ensure maximum effect. Less severely affected pets will benefit from being introduced at least 10days before the event.
One Week Before The Event
Create a safe ‘den’ where the pet feels protected. This should be a quiet location where the pet feels safe (this is may be high up for cats; some dogs prefer alcoves). Provide a screen or hideaway using draped blankets or an indoor tent and include the pet’s favourite bedding. Ensure pets have some form of identification i.e. a microchip or a collar with a tag to trace it if it manages to escape.
Top Tips For The Main Event
- Make sure cats are kept inside the house and that escape routes to the outside are locked i.e. windows, doors and cat flaps.
- Draw the curtains and put on some music or the TV to drown out the firework noise. It does not have to be loud.
- Walk your dog before sundown.
- Wherever the pet chooses to hide leave it well alone until it feels safe enough to emerge.
- Try to engage your pet in some form of active game.
- Ignore any fearful behaviour and don’t try to comfort your pet. A dog may pick up on your anxiety and this can make the problem worse. Cats prefer to be left to cope on their own.
- Stay calm and act normally.
Firework night may go with a bang for you and your family, but it is estimated that approximately 60% of pets become stressed and fearful during the firework season. To make matters worse, not only are many pet owners are unaware of how to help their dogs and cats with firework fears, veterinary professionals believe that 71% of pet owners may miss the signs that their pet is unhappy. We hope that this article has helped with top tips in the run up to firework night and for the day itself. Preparation really is the key so please speak to your vet or vet nurse on the best treatment & therapy for your pet and we hope that by preparing in advance your pet has a stress free firework night!