By far the most common topic of conversation in my consulting room at this time of year is Guy Fawkes night. An annual celebration loved and adored by children, but dreaded by many pet owners.
It will be a familiar sight as the first rockets start to whoosh into the sky and your dog disappears under the dining room table. Research has shown as many as 80% of pets might be scared of fireworks.
A fear response is a normal mechanism. It has evolved over generations to protect us from harm – the ‘fight or flight’ response. The trouble comes when the fear becomes engrained. Pets can become hypersensitive to noise and the fear response can change from being elicited by just fireworks to any loud noise.
Training your dog or cat that there is no need to be scared is the best long term solution. This involves using a commercially available CD designed to repeat play various scary noises. It is best to seek professional advice before using these so please speak to your vet. Unfortunately in order to work treatment must be started months in advance, so it is too late for this year.
‘Adaptil’ and ‘Feliway’ are well known and widely used “happy” pheromones for dogs and cats. They come in plug in diffuser formats, and as collars for dogs and sprays for cats. There is published data about their efficiency. They aid general relaxation and will take the edge off most fear behaviours.
Please see your vet before using drugs. Sedatives and diazepam (Valium) are used with some success. Now is the time to make an approach to your vet to get medication in advance of there being a problem.
Never punish your dog or cat for being scared, this will make matters worse. Equally, do not over fuss your dog or cat. This vital point is missed by many who think they are doing the right thing by cuddling up to their scared pet.
Make your pet a safe den to hide in and feed them a large meal. The science is that the release of insulin works alongside endorphin release to cause a sleepy feeling. There are also natural calming remedies available from your veterinary team, just phone your surgery for advice. If you don’t do anything at all, the fear response might well be even worse next time.