Firework Season is coming

1st October 2017

Fireworks are fun BUT…

...most dogs are terrified of them. Unfortunately, many of our pets don’t enjoy the fireworks. At Bollington Veterinary Centre I think it’s reasonable to say that we think most dogs are terrified of fireworks. To help with the ‘Firework Season’ we’ve put together some tips to help you and your pet deal with the stress.

10 tips to help them cope with fireworks

  1. Be prepared - try to anticipate when fireworks will happen and be prepared. Keep your pet in a “safe” place where the noise will be reduced or absent. If possible provide a secure hiding place such as a covered corner of the room or cage. Get them used to this safe place early (weeks ahead) by feeding them and putting a bed in there. When the fireworks are expected, put your pet in there early before the explosions and bangs begin.
  2. Keep the lights on - leave the lights on in the home so the flash of the fireworks is less startling. This way the association of the flash with the expected bang is reduced or broken.
  3. Use the radio and TV – keep some background noise on in the room at all times to help blend the noise of the fireworks.
  4. Distractions can help – use toys, ‘tuggers’, balls or food games. Anything that will help to distract your dog and focus their mind on something more enjoyable will help.
  5. Stay calm – the family reactions are critical to helping or hindering the way your pet will react to fireworks. The basic principle is you only reward “good behaviour’ and never reward “bad behaviour”. If a dog is agitated, don’t pick it up and sooth it as this will reinforce the idea that there is a reason to be frightened. Ignore your pet and carry on as usual as if there is nothing to be worried about. This way it will help them understand that you and the family aren’t worried, so helping them to calm down.
  6. Microchips and nametags – if you have a pet that you know is nervous with fireworks, make sure it has up to date identification. Do you have a nametag on the collar with your phone details? Have you added our phone number as well? It may help us to quickly reunite your pet if it runs off. It’s also important to make sure that your dog is microchipped and the details are correct. When was the last time you updated the records?
  7. Early familiarisation – there is lots of evidence to show that puppies exposed to the sounds of fireworks from an early age who have learned to accept them as nothing special will cope better as they age. There are many resources available to help you and your pet. Ask us for some help and advice.
  8. Try calming products – there are a wide range of aids to help keep dogs calm these days, including Adaptil and Zylkene. Talk to us about all their benefits.
  9. Prescription products may help – we’re often asked if there are any prescription drugs that can help? In some special cases we can use mild anxiolytics and sedatives. Medicating your dog may not be an appealing idea to you, but can be a tremendous help. Stress and anxiety inhibit learning in dogs as well as in people. If anxiety can be decreased, learning can be increased. There are several types of medications that can be used.
    • Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI) and Tricyclic Anti-depressants – these cause an increase in the serotonin levels of the brain, producing a calming effect. Speak to our vet team for more information.
    • Benzodiazepines – these are anti-anxiety medications that start to work in about 30-45 minutes. If you think your dog might benefit from this, make sure you book an appointment with one of our vets for a full health and behaviour consultation.
    • Alpha 2 agonists - very low doses of dexmedetomidine (an Alpha 2 agonist) given as a gel rubbed onto the gums, is both an effective anti-anxiety drug and safe. Dogs remain functional and interactive but lose their fears and anxieties associated with loud noises.
  10. Specialist help - a veterinary behaviour specialist can help with your behaviour modification program and can decide whether or not medication is appropriate. Sometimes we will recommend you and your dog are referred to see an expert behaviourist. If this happens, don’t feel you have failed. You will be one of many who have struggled. The good news is that there is usually light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Don’t forget cats!

Whilst cats aren’t normally associated with noise phobias, they are still at risk, especially if they have free access to the outdoors. They can get very frightened and run off suddenly with many getting lost or injured on the roads as a result.

  • Keep them in – it’s best to keep cats safe inside during the firework season.
  • Microchip – make sure your pet is microchipped just incase it runs away and gets injured.
  • Feliway – a calming pheromone for cats is available in the form of a diffuser or spray called Feliway. These are effective when used in the home at this time of year. Ask us for more information.

 

And finally

Good luck. Remember you can always speak to our highly experience vet and nursing team. We can help with all sorts of behavioural problems.