As fireworks night draws closer it’s time to think about how to help pets of all shape and sizes cope with the stresses of this time of year. There are plenty of strategies and products we can put in place to help keep anxiety and stress to a minimum, and for those animals with more severe phobias, namely dogs, it may be appropriate to discuss drug-therapy for them. Again it’s good to think about this in good time. We’ve put together a guide on strategies to help your dog, cat or small pet cope, as well as links to some online resources with great hints and tips. Our nurses are always more than happy to help over the phone or in an appointment and guide you through which products may be of assistance.

DOGS: Short Term Behavioural Management

– During fireworks season try and walk your dog during daylight hours and then keep them inside. Make sure they have some form of ID tag in case they are scared and run off.

– Provide a hiding place or den where they can feel safe.

– Muffle the sounds of fireworks – close doors, windows and curtains and put on the TV or radio. Maybe provide a chew or toy as a distraction.

– Ignore fearful behaviour such as panting, shaking and whining. Try not to leave your pet alone during this time, but stay calm and don’t get angry with them.

– Products to help them out during this period include Zylkene (capsules), Adaptil (plug-in, spray or collar) and Pet Remedy (plug-in or spray). Click on the links to find out more about these products or come and talk to us. They should ideally be started at least a few days before fireworks are expected and continued until they stop. Drugs for more severe phobias that reduce/prevent anxiety can be prescribed by a vet if appropriate once the dog’s general health and the potential for side effects have been considered.

DOGS: Long Term Behaviour Management

Ideally we should take the time to teach our dogs that they don’t need to be scared of loud noises. Sound desensitisation is proven to help many pets with sound related problems by teaching them a different behavioural response. It can be also be used to socialise puppies so they don’t become scared when exposed to stimuli later in life. Desensitisation involves exposing your pet to the stressful sound in a controlled manner whilst they are relaxed and occupied with a toy or treat. You can either buy a CD with a variety of sounds (e.g. thunder, fireworks, gunshot), or the range of Sounds Scary soundtracks are now available free to download through the Dog’s Trust here.

CATS

Many of the strategies used for dogs also apply for cats such as keeping them in, providing places to hide, distracting them with toys or treats and keeping calm if they show fearful behaviour. International Cat Care have some great advice here. It’s also a time of year when many cats go missing as they get scared and may run away and get lost, therefore making sure your cat is microchipped can be very helpful. Products that can help cats keep calm include Zylkene (capsules), Feliway (plug-in or spray) and Pet Remedy (plug-in and spray). Click on the links to find out more about these products or come and talk to us. They should ideally be started at least a few days before fireworks are expected and continued until they stop.

SMALL PETS

Small pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice and birds can become easily frightened so there are a few simple measures we can take to reduce their anxiety and stress.

– Ideally move outdoor hutches/cages indoors (e.g. into the house or a garage or shed).

– If they cannot be brought inside move/face them away from where they might see fireworks and cover the enclosure with thick blankets or a duvet to muffle noises, whilst ensuring they still have adequate ventilation.

– Provide extra bedding so pets can burrow and feel safe and consider providing extra hiding places, toys and treats.

For more advice on what might be best for your pet call us on 01280 703451 and have a chat with one of our qualified veterinary nurses.