With November 5th upon us and the festive season rapidly approaching, many of us will be attending fireworks parties over the next few weeks.  Some thought needs to be given to our pets during this time, especially if they have a noise phobia.  Noise phobias are surprisingly common with some studies suggesting that half of all dogs suffer.

So how do you know if your pet is finding firework night a stressful experience?  Sometimes it is obvious  – dogs may bark, pant, pace, show destructive behaviours or even try and escape through windows.  On the other hand cats are more likely to hide away.  However with a bit of thought and planning you can do a lot to help your pet cope with the next few weeks.

Planning ahead

In the days leading up to bonfire night create a safe den for your pet to hide in: a covered crate, a bed behind the sofa or a blanket over the kitchen table for example.  Place a favourite toy or blanket in the den to make your pet feel as secure as possible and plug in a pheromone diffuser close to the den.  These release a synthetic copy of the pheromone that a bitch produces when suckling her pups and will help to reassure an anxious pet.

A trip to your local veterinary surgeon would also be worthwhile.  They will be able to discuss the use of natural calming products and if they feel it is appropriate for your pet they may prescribe anxiety-relieving drugs.

During fireworks

Walk your dog in daylight long before any anticipated bangs and shut your cat indoors.  Don’t forget any small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs and bring them indoors if possible or at the very least cover their hutches.  As darkness falls ensure that your pet has easy access to their den.  Then close all the curtains, turn on the lights and switch the radio or television on.  Constant loud music with a strong beat is often better than television for drowning out the scary noises.

The most important thing to remember is that how you react to your pet will have a big influence on how well they cope.  Your natural reaction will be to comfort and reassure your  pet but this tends to reward them for being fearful and send out the message that they are right to be afraid.  It is much better to ignore the fireworks and your pet’s reaction to them.  When your pet is calm again you can reward them with affection or a treat.

The long term

Once you have survived this year’s firework season you need to start planning for 2018!  It is possible to help your pet get over its noise phobia with a desensitisation programme.  This involves exposing your pet to the noise of fireworks at a low volume and rewarding them for calm behaviour.  Over time you very gradually increase the volume and length of exposure.  There are commercially produced CDs to help you achieve this.  Noise desensitisation programmes can work very well but do need to be started weeks to months in advance.

Have a happy firework season and if you have any queries please contact us via www.facebook.com/eastgatevets