Things that go bang in the night….
This time of year can be a challenge…summer has gone, the days are short and the rain is a frequent visitor. Many of us will be eagerly awaiting events such as Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve to bring some fun and excitement to brighten up these autumn evenings.
Interestingly, it has been quoted that up to as many as 40% of pet owners would report their pet is afraid of fireworks and for many animals, the uncertainty of changes in routine and loud unexpected noises can cause anxiety.
Charter Vet Becky Horner BVM BVS (Hons) MRCVS offers some invaluable advice on what to do if you think your pet might be suffering with noise phobia, and how you can help them through what can be a difficult time of year.
Signs of anxiety
It is important to remember that all animals are different and may therefore show fear, nervousness or anxiety in many ways. A few of the common signs to look out for in your pets are listed below:
Anxiety in dogs:
Anxiety in cats:
Pacing and panting
Hiding away / cowering
Destructive behaviour, such as chewing furniture
Cats often show quite subtle behavioural changes
Hiding / cowering often in high places or under furniture
Lack of appetite
Toileting in the house
Preparation in Advance
Prior to firework season, there are a few key things you can put in place to reduce levels of stress for you and your pet. Researching the dates, timings and locations of scheduled firework displays will ensure you can plan appropriately.
Creating a safe space or “den” can provide a real sense of security for your pet. Getting this ready in advance and rewarding them for spending time here can encourage your pet to feel at ease and comfortable in the den. Appropriate places for dogs may be in a large crate or in a quiet room with adequate space. Covering the den with a blanket can increase the feeling of security and the use of familiar toys and bedding provides both entertainment and comfort. Cats often feel safer at a height and covered cat beds can be a good way of providing hiding space. For owners of rabbits or guinea pigs that are housed outdoors, please consider partly covering hutches with blankets to avoid bright flashing lights and to dampen the sound.
For owners who may be considering getting a new puppy or kitten next year, prior to firework season, socialisation noise CD’s may be a useful tool to get them used to hearing the low level sound of fireworks from a young age.
Finally, just as a precaution, please ensure that your pet’s collar, microchip and veterinary records are updated with your contact details in case they are disorientated by the fireworks. This will enable us to re-unite them with you as soon as possible.
Pets can really pick up on our tone of voice and mood as well as our actions. Using background noise (TV/radio) can be helpful and may reduce the volume of the fireworks heard in the home as well as creating a calm environment. Maintaining a normal routine is reassuring for your pet, however it may be sensible to walk your dogs during late afternoon, before fireworks are due to begin. Furthermore, ensure that cats have opportunity to go outdoors during the day before encouraging them safely inside in the evening with access to litter trays, food and water as well as possibly a new toy for distraction.
If your pet is showing any of the signs of anxiety detailed above, then provide gentle reassurance and encourage them to use their dens/safe spaces. Try to avoid punishing fearful behaviour or restraining them.
In some cases, veterinary assistance and behavioural advice may be appropriate. There are several options to discuss with your veterinary practice including: pheromone plug in devices/sprays, calming supplements as well as anti-anxiety medications (veterinary prescription necessary) for short term relief. Several of these options work best when given before the stressful stimulus and again highlight the importance of prior planning.
Please don’t hesitate to contact your local Charter Vets practice if you would like further advice to ensure you and your pet have a safe and stress-free firework season.
We are currently running the below offer throughout our practices – pop in to your local Charter Vets to find out more and take advantage.