So fireworks celebrations are here and whilst we all enjoy a good display, the majority of our pets show discomfort and fear when faced with sudden loud noises. So we have put together some advice on how to prepare for the fireworks and how to comfort your pet as the noise commences.
So what’s the difference between a fear and a phobia? Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. It is a basic survival mechanism. Phobia is intense and “an extreme or irrational fear causing avoidance or panic”.
Our animals can be born sensitive to noise or they have a breed propensity to noise fear. A fear of noise can also develop after a traumatic experience coupled with a loud noise. Common traumatic experiences are fireworks and thunder storms. Noise fears and phobias can be caused as a result of a lack of exposure to bangs, traffic and loud noise early in life, or through repeated experiences without being able to escape the noise. Any phobia is also partly learned through experience.
• Hiding or cowering
• Trying to escape: digging at carpets, clawing at door frames/floors, jumping through open windows, running away
• Urinating and/or defecating
• Pacing, shaking or cowering
• Being ‘clingy’ towards owner
• Refusing to go for a walk or to go outside
• Refusing to eat
• Expressing anal glands in extreme fear
• Panting, drooling
• Walk your dog earlier in the day and ‘toilet’ them before it gets dark
• Keep cats indoors and provide litter trays
• Cover rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ cages
• Keep windows covered so flashes cannot be seen
• Mask external noise by keeping the TV or radio on
• Provide a covered den but make sure it’s not adjacent to an outside wall
• Place comfortable bedding and blankets there to help muffle sounds
• Use an Adaptil or Feliway diffuser plugged in near your pet’s resting/sleeping areas.
• Give food activity toys and chews, especially novel ones
• Ignore fearful behaviour, such a panting, shaking and whining. Dogs may pick up on their owner’s anxiety which could make the problem worse.
• Try not to leave your pets alone while fireworks are going off, pets will be more relaxed when they have a familiar person with them during this time.
• Don’t punish your pet! This will only make your pet more distressed.
For the more fearful dog, you may want to consider a Thundershirt. The shirt is a snug-fitting garment that applies constant pressure around the dog’s body, similar to the effect of swaddling a baby. This constant pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system and can help to create a calmer mood state in dogs.
It is unfortunately too late for this year’s fireworks, but for dogs that are very scared by fireworks you can help to desensitise them to scary noises by playing a special CD. These have a range of sounds other than fireworks, such as traffic noise, rain and thunder, gun shots, trains, aircrafts and other loud noises that your pet may encounter and be frightened of. When used correctly, noise CDs can help to treat and prevent sound phobias.