As the evenings draw in and the weather turns colder and wetter, preparations are under way to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night.
Celebrating the 5th November is part of welcoming winter and is great fun for children and adults alike but it can be a very stressful time for animals.
Cats and dogs have much more sensitive hearing than we do and are able to hear fireworks that we can not. When we are at home and we hear fireworks outside, we understand what is happening but for our pets it can be a very confusing time and the noise made by fireworks can trigger a strong stress response.
We can help our pets to cope by closing the curtains and turning up the volume of the TV or radio to help to drown out the sound. Make sure that your pets are indoors while fireworks go off. It is important to do this at dusk before the fireworks start as it is less effective once the stress levels have already risen.
We can unwittingly make things worse by fussing our pets when they become anxious. This re-inforces the stress behaviour in their minds. Fussing them confirms in their minds that there is something to be concerned about. It is best to try not to respond to their anxiety.
Finally medication can help to make them less anxious and there are a number of options now available. Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats is available from Vets and creates an environment creating a scent hormone which conveys a message of security and reassurance. It is very safe for you and your pet.
Another option is a tablet medication which helps your cat or dog to smoothly and quickly adapt to changing situations and can be used prior to firework stress.
Neither of these options make your pet drowsy but do often help them to cope more effectively.
As ever, planning early is essential. These products take some time to work and so seeing your vet and getting organised now is important.
The last week, while many of us have enjoyed the spectacle of Bonfire night, has been a stressful time for many of our pets. Many pets are sent into a blind panic at the noise made by fireworks and this can be distressing for animal and owner alike. This year, as ever, I have had many calls at the surgery from worried owners who see their pets becoming more and more distressed with every night that passes. While the fireworks might have subsided for now, the memory of the distress caused will be fresh in the mind of owner and pet alike. It is worth remembering that New Year is not so far away and making preparations early is most important.
My first suggestion is not to panic your self. Try to act as though you have not even noticed the fireworks. Our animals are often very in tune with us and they will pick up on our anxiety. If owners are not stressed by the noise outside why should the pet worry? Take your dog out before dusk falls so they do not need the toilet when the bangs and pops are at their worst. Close the curtains to block out the sight of the fireworks and deaden the sound. Turn on the TV or the Radio so there is a noise distraction. A good meal often helps us to fall asleep in the evening and the same may be true of our pets so feed them at dusk before the noise starts.
Vets used to dispense sedation drugs for pets to take on 5th November but since fireworks often go on for many nights, they are often not appropriate. A new generation of “behaviour modifying” medicines have emerged in the last few years which are much safer for your pet and often work well. Many of these medicines take some time to reach full effect so you need to plan early.
My last suggestion and possibly the most effective is “sound aversion therapy”. This involves playing a specially designed C.D. with sounds on it at low volume over a period of several months. It really does work well for many pets but if you want the dog to enjoy bringing in New Year you will need to start preparations now.