The firework season will soon be upon us again.
Many pets develop a fear of the sudden loud noises, whistles and flashes of light that fireworks produce. This fear may start as subtle changes in your pet’s behaviour but over the years can progress to extreme fear and frantic or destructive behaviour. We would like to offer some advice on how to help your pets cope with this stressful time.
- Provide a den or bolthole for your pet to hide in. This may be a place they already go when they hear fireworks, or you can create such a place. The aim is for the den to be in a room where the noise of fireworks is muffled. Soft furnishings help to absorb sound, so under a bed may be a good place; soft furnishings can be added in the form of blankets or old clothes on the bed and thick curtains to the windows. Your pet may choose a cupboard, behind the sofa or an indoor kennel. The den can be made to feel more dark and secure by draping a blanket over it. Always ensure your pet can get out of the den if he wishes and never force your pet into it. Make sure food and water are easily accessed from the den. Encourage your pet to move to the den area before the firework season begins, feeding here can also help or providing treats to be taken in the den. As the firework season starts encourage your pet to move to the den at sundown and black out the windows. Provide toys or tasty chews for him and something to keep yourself occupied while you stay in the room with him so he does not feel abandoned.
- Background music can help to disguise the noise from the outside; the best type of music is one with a lot of constant drumbeats. It does not have to be loud, just as long as it distracts from what is happening outside.
- Plug in a D.A.P diffuser in the room the dog is using as a den, close to the den area. The D.A.P diffuser looks like a plug-in air freshener, however it releases something called Dog Appeasing Pheromone. This is a scent that bitches produce when they are feeding puppies, and it creates in the puppies a sense of security and familiarity. It has a similar effect on adult dogs, helping to reduce anxiety in stressful situations. Ideally the D.A.P should be installed 2 weeks before fireworks are due to start and left on continuously during the season until 1 week after the fireworks have finished.
- On the nights when fireworks will be at their worst walk your dog early and then keep him indoors after dark. Feed a large, stodgy carbohydrate rich meal 2 hours before fireworks are expected.
- Ignore the noises yourself and try and engage your pet in some form of active game
- Do not punish your dog when he is scared, it only confirms that there was something to be afraid of.
- Do not fuss or try to reassure your dog when he is scared, as this rewards the behaviour.
- Make sure your dog is kept in a safe and secure environment at all times so that it does not bolt and escape if a sudden noise occurs.
- If you know of a dog that is not scared by the noises and gets on well with your own pet then keeping them together in the evenings may help. If your own dog is too frightened to play with you then playing with this dog may encourage your own dog that things are not too bad.
Medication may be required for some dogs with existing phobias. If you feel this may be the case for your pet then please make an appointment to see a vet. Sometimes prescription medications are required for animals with severe noise phobias, some of these products need to be taken for several weeks before the benefit is seen, so do plan ahead.
A new product is now available that can help cats and dogs cope with stress. It is a natural product, produced from milk protein and is not associated with side effects. It has to be given for a minimum of 3 days to see the benefit, but can be used for longer spells with no problems – useful when the fireworks season can last for a few weeks.
Dogs can be desensitised to loud noises, which will help them overcome their fear of fireworks, gunshot or crow scarers. This is best undertaken once the firework season is over and requires time and patience. Further information can be found on www.soundtherapy4pets.com, or please discuss with a member of our Veterinary Staff.