How to help your pet through the firework season

Is your dog one of the 49%?

Noise sensitivity is a common behavioural problem in dogs. One survey reported that almost half of dog owners (49%) stated that their dog was fearful of loud noises such as fireworks.

When we think of signs of fear in our animals, we tend to think of them as cowering away and trembling, crying out, or even wetting themselves. However, signs can far more subtle such as licking lips or swallowing a little more, ears tilted, or even just sleeping in the hallway instead of the living room. Cats are not immune to noise phobias either, but they tend hide themselves or their signs of distress to avoid drawing attention to themselves when they are scared or anxious.

It is important to recognise these mild signs as they can escalate over time to the firework noise, or they may start to become generalised where your pet then becomes fearful of other sounds, lights or movements. In a worst case scenario, they can progress to becoming fear aggressive to their owners.

It has been shown that even the most severe/ phobic noise sensitive animals have just the same probability of improving as those pets that are less affected, with over 90% of animals benefiting from behaviour therapy and managing their home surroundings.

Here are some tips to help your pet cope:

Short-term Management

  • It’s helpful to know when to expect a firework display, so make sure you’re up to date on the timings of all the local shows.
     
  • Provide a den or hiding place for your pet to use; somewhere they can feel safe. Plug-in calming diffusers aid in creating a calm environment.
     
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped so that if they do escape they can be easily found.
     
  • Take dogs for lead walks before it gets dark and fireworks start and ensure cats are kept in with access to a litter tray.
     
  • Ensure pets are safely inside and secure doors, windows and cat flaps.
     
  • Close curtains, play music or have the TV on to help mask the sound of fireworks.
     
  • Stay with your pet, act normally and remain calm and unresponsive to fireworks; animals will pick up on your reactions.
     
  • Treats and toys can be used to reduce anxiety and help distract your pet.
     
  • Do not comfort your pet if it is showing signs of fear or anxiety; this is telling your pet it is right to be worried.
     
  • Do not get angry with your pet, however frustrating it may be, as this will only make them worse.
     
  • Do not leave your pet alone.

What Can My Vet Do?

For short-term control or extreme situations, Larkmead can prescribe anti-anxiety medications for your pet. These should not be seen as an easy alternative, but should be used in combination with the advice above. The use of calming agents can be very helpful in reducing stress levels. Most pets need to be given these some time before any noise starts; your vet can give you detailed instruction on their use. 

 
Long-term Management

A long-term control programme should be instigated as soon as possible to stop your pet from reinforcing their phobia. Contact your vet for information about desensitisation packages and programmes that slowly introduce your pet to various loud sounds over time, such as the “Sounds Scary” CD which can be ordered from Larkmead or downloaded through the help and advice section on the Dogs Trust website at www.dogstrust.org.uk.

Your vet will also be able to put you in contact with appropriate behaviourists if you feel you need further help with this process.

Thundershirts

Thundershirts are pet coats that create a calming effect by providing constant and gentle pressure to the torso. Users describe how their pets appear to be more relaxed and sleepy when wearing the Thundershirt. The benefits of this product are that it can be used at short-notice and there are no potential side-effects.

Contact us if you would like more in depth information and advice, or products that can help your pet cope with the firework season.

Call 01235 814991 or 01491 651379