Thu 9th Oct 2014

Remember Remember Not Long Till November!

 

It’s less than a month now until the start of one of the most serious welfare issues facing up to 50% of our pets, the 5th November – Fireworks night! Except of course it isn’t a night anymore, it isn’t even a month! As we know firework season starts in about 3 weeks time and lasts for about 3 months.

Unfortunately even if you are one of the lucky ones whose pet seems unaffected by fireworks, it doesn’t mean that this year will be the same. A single unexpected BANG can trigger the seed of anxiety in your pet, developing a spiral of unwanted behavioural problems for you to cope with, as well as the obvious stress endured by your dog or cat. Once a phobia to fireworks begins it can progress to include noise from the television, traffic, vacuum cleaner or in our locality the guns from Salisbury Plain meaning that our pets can struggle to cope with noise phobias on a daily basis.

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Fortunately there are things that we as owners can do to try help our stressed pets, some of which should be put in place now hence the reason for this article, but in addition you need to be prepared to know what to do (and importantly what NOT to do!) when the blitz actually starts.

What to do NOW! – (Apart from talk to us!)

Firstly create a safe hiding place for your pet, this could be a covered dog crate, a den behind the sofa, it does not have to be flash or new it could already be that favourite hiding place, but ideally it should be conveniently placed and away from windows and doors. The reason to create this den now is to allow      your pet to acclimatise to it whilst the skies are quiet! Make the den an area where treats and toys are regularly provided to reinforce that feeling of it being a good place to be as well as a ‘sanctuary’ whilst there are no unexpected whizzes, fizzes or screams above us!

Secondly start using pheromones and start using them as soon as possible. Whatever some people may say, we as humans are not sensitive to the power of pheromones, our pet dogs and cats however are highly tuned to their effects. Pheromones have been scientifically proven to help pets cope with stress and noise phobias, but they work best if they’ve been in place emitting their calming influence for a few weeks before the  fireworks begin. Pheromone products come in different forms including plug-in diffusers, sprays and collars. Please be prepared and start using these, don’t leave it too late.

Thirdly if you haven’t already microchipped your cat or dog, make it a priority this month. It’s common sense that no pet should be allowed outside when the fireworks start, but if you are caught unawares then there is a high chance your pet could go missing, please don’t ignore a microchip, they are inexpensive, quick and easy to insert, please just give us a ring!

 

What to do when the fireworks start: –

Be prepared with appropriate medication and make sure you use it in time! We can provide you with medications that can be given an hour before dusk that reduce stress and help prevent learnt anxiety behavioural problems from developing. Medication will unfortunately be an essential part of your fight against the fear factor, we are able provide herbal options as well as conventional medications.

Take you dogs out for toileting purposes early in the evening before if gets dark and then keep them in! Cat flaps should be kept shut early on and be aware that extra litter trays may be required.

When fireworks start, shut the curtains, and turn up the television or stereo to drown out the noise of the bangs.

Stay calm, your anxiety will quickly pass onto your pet and whatever you do, do not get cross with them however annoying or frustrating their behaviour may seem.

If your pet is shaking, dribbling, panting, don’t make a fuss or try to comfort them as it will only serve to reinforce the adverse behaviour making it harder for them to cope, save the fuss for when the fireworks have finished and they eventually settle down again.

 

What to do in the long-term:-

Sadly if your pet does have issues with fireworks and noise phobias they will not get better on their own, in fact they generally get worse. They will require a process of desensitisation to help cure them. Desensitisation is a behavioural therapy that is usually successful in improving a pet’s response to noise phobias, but it is not a quick fix, it takes time and commitment from owners, often months of commitment, but do not let that put you off. You should start this process of desensitisation when the bangs have eventually stopped in the New Year, it is too close to firework night to start now. Please come in and pick up a ‘Sounds Scary’ CD from us and start the desensitisation process in January. These CDs are very cheap but a massive investment in your pet’s long-term welfare, we recommend them to all puppies to help prevent them developing noise phobias in the first place.

It’s very easy to breathe a sign of relief once the firework season is over and then to forget it all for another year…. please don’t fall into that trap, and remember we are happy to offer help and advice when you need it.

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