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Help your pets cope with fireworks

27/10/2013

The noise and lights associated with fireworks can cause pets to become distressed, anxious and frightened.  Below are some tips which you may find useful.

Beforehand:

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped to increase their chances of being reunited with you if they become lost.  By law dogs must still wear a collar with ID tag even if chipped.
  • Build a den – this doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but if for example your dog is keen to hide behind the sofa, or under a table, then help them out a bit by adding comfortable bedding, and soundproof with blankets or a duvet.  Give them treats while they’re in the den so they associate it with comfort and safety.
  • Use an Adaptil collar or plug-in for dogs, or a Feliway plug-in for cats – these are safe pheromone products which have been shown to reduce stress-related behaviours.  While they usually just alleviate extreme stress signs, they can sometimes work dramatically.
  • Zylkene may also be helpful – this gentle milk-based treatment can have a calming effect.
  • Walk dogs before dark to reduce the chance of encountering fireworks while you are out, and make sure cats are shut indoors before nightfall.
  • Feed dogs a carbohydrate-rich meal, such as pasta or rice, at teatime – this stimulates happy hormones, encouraging sleep.  Avoid this if your dog gets an upset tummy during stress!
  • Draw the curtains nice and early and turn up some music with a strong beat.  Playing music from different rooms at the same time works best to disguise outside noise.

During the fireworks:

  • Stay calm!  If you react to the fireworks your pet will also react.  Aim to be jolly and relaxed.
  • Although we instinctively want to comfort our distressed pets, try hard not to make too much of a fuss of them.  If they seek out attention and reassurance then give it freely, but avoid offering extra special affection, and above all do not tell them off – these actions will make the anxious behaviour worse.
  • Offer an exciting treat such as a chew or a Kong stuffed with extra-special food.
  • Try to do a bit of training with your dog, even a simple command like sit can provide a useful distraction if you have some tasty rewards.

Does my pet need medication?

If your pet is extremely anxious and would benefit from medication, please make an appointment to discuss this with us as soon as possible.  Sedating dogs may make them appear sleepy but can make the underlying problem worse, so we choose medication carefully and may suggest a trial first – it is therefore important that you do not leave it too late to bring your pet in.

Prevention is better than cure

If you are dreading fireworks season because your dog struggles so much, then please talk to us.   There is professional help available to teach your pet to overcome their fear, but this process needs to be started months in advance of fireworks season.  Next year could be much easier to deal with!