With Halloween and bonfire night fast approaching, it signals the start of a traumatic period for some pets. If you know your pet is likely to be anxious during the fireworks onslaught then a pre-emptive, preventative approach is going to help the most. Learning to recognise the early signs of fear and distress in your pet will enable you to calm them before they reach a state of complete terror. For instance, pacing, clinginess and trembling may indicate a mildly anxious dog, whereas hiding, whining and soiling can indicate a more severe state of fear. Most cats will try to escape scary situations - to avoid them bolting keep outdoor cats inside when you know there is going to be fireworks in your area (and make sure they are microchipped just in case).
There are lots of steps you can take to reassure your pets and make your house into a safe haven:
- Ensure there are plenty of hiding places in a calm and safe environment. Consider making a den for your dog (under a desk or piece of furniture) with their bed and some favourite toys/treats available. Give them access to this in advance of any firework events so they are happy using it. Giving them a stodgy meal and long walk during the day will make them more likely to be sleepy.
- When fireworks are going off ensure there is other background noise, such as the TV or radio, to distract your pet.
- Enhance the 'safe haven' effect by using a pheromone diffuser, such as Adaptil (for dogs) or Feliway (for cats). These need to be started at least five days before firework season begins. They release synthetic versions of the chemicals produced by suckling bitches/queens that help to reassure offspring during nursing.
- Use food supplements such as Zylkene, KalmAid and Oakham Vet Hospital calming aid for dogs. These contain L-tryptophan and the milk protein, Casein, which can promote relaxation, provided they are started a few days before the predicted change in environment (we recommend starting Zylkene two weeks prior to fireworks starting).
The key is to act normally and try not to reassure your pet too much - excessive reassurance will confirm their suspicions that they are correct to be scared.
Similarly, do not punish them as this will just increase their state of anxiety. If you act normally during this time your pet is more likely to consider these noises to be normal and is less likely to panic.
We offer free nurse clinics with our qualified veterinary nurses where you can discuss your pet's firework phobia and find out about short and long-term solutions. Until 30th November 2018 we are offering 10% off all calming aids mentioned in this article. For more information or to book an appointment call us on 01572 722646.