The upcoming festive season is quickly approaching and with this comes fireworks; with bonfire night, Christmas and New Years Eve all on the horizon, it is important to take precautions for our pets that may not find the celebrations as exciting as we do.
Our pets can be born sensitive to noise or they may have a breed propensity to fear noise. A fear of noise can develop after a traumatic experience coupled with a loud noise; common experiences of this nature are fireworks and thunder storms. The seemingly random flashes of light also add a strong visual stimulus to what the dog is also listening to outside. Remember your pets’ auditory sense is much stronger than your own! So loud noises to you will seem even louder for them; this could panic the animal and trigger a fearful response.
The symptoms of fear that your pet presents will depend on the severity of the fear/phobia. Some of these are:
- Hiding or cowering
- Trying to escape (digging at carpets, clawing at doors, jumping through open windows)
- Urinating and/ or defecating
- Pacing or shaking
- Being ‘clingy’ towards the owner
- Refusing to go outside
- Refusing to eat
- Expressing anal glands in extreme fear
- Panting or drooling
During the festive season, or if you know there is a firework display happening near you, there are a number of things you can do to help your pet have a more positive experience:
- Walk your dog earlier in the day and ‘toilet’ them before it gets dark
- Keep cats indoors and provide litter trays
- 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. These dispense calming chemicals in to the room and could help your animal.
- 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.
- If you have small animals that live outside then make sure you cover part of their cages, pens or aviary with a blanket or towel so that one part is well sound-proofed. Make sure they can still see out if they choose to.
- Ensure your pets have lots of bedding to burrow in if they feel panicked.
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.
If you’d like to speak to your vet please do not hesitate to contact our practice on 01327 350239.