It can be hard enough this time of year trying to negotiate calm with your little ones; confused with the loud bangs of fireworks and scary monsters asking for all their sweeties. Participating in all of the fun goes along way to ease the minds of young children but, what about the fur babies?
Fireworks night can be a tough time of the year for pets. So we sat down with veterinarian, Dr Thom Jenkins, to get the low down on how to minimise the stress our furred friends experience.
BOOBERRIT: Why is fireworks night such a difficult time of year for pets?
DR. THOM JENKINS: Our pets typically have much better hearing than we do, such that they can be even more sensitive to the loud whizz, bangs and whistles that fireworks produce. This means that loud, unexpected noises are not just a source of stress for pets but can also actually cause pain.
BB: What can pet owners do in advance of fireworks night to prepare?
DTJ: We can do quite a lot to prepare pets for the inherent stresses of fireworks night. Owners that are particularly concerned about their pets should ideally seek behavioural advice as far in advance as possible. For example, it is possible to help reduce a pet’s sensitivity to noises associated with fireworks, and thus reduce the stress, however, this desensitisation process can take several months. There are pheromonal diffusers that appear to work in some pets that your vet can recommend. At short notice, in some cases medication may be needed to mitigate the stress and anxiety induced by fireworks.
BB: What should pet owners do on the night itself?
DTJ: Keep your pets inside, even if this means bringing forward you dog’s walking time in advance of when people will be letting fireworks off. Many animal shelters report an increase in lost pets around this time of year as the loud noises can scare pets into running away, so close all windows etc. And ensure your pet is microchipped and registered on a microchip database. A physical ID in the form of collar tags are also useful to help ensure your pet makes it back to you if they are scared into running away. Familiar sources of noise, like the television, can be used to help drown out the fireworks. Give your pets a space where they can hide and feel safe/protected. Provide reassuring scents, in the form of the pet pheromones if you’ve found those to work and/or your own scent. Tasty treats can also work well as a distraction. Do your best to be there for them and provide reassurance, while trying to remain calm yourself.
BB: What are the signs that pets are suffering from stress/anxiety relating to fireworks?
DTJ: Cats and dogs will often hide away. Alternatively they may pace around vocalising (meowing or barking) more than usual. In cats, over grooming through repetitive licking of an area, leading to hair loss, is another common sign. Cats may also express further undesirable behaviours, such as clawing furniture or scent marking. It’s important we don’t add to the stress by over reacting but instead be aware of and sensitive to the trigger for these behaviours. Dogs often lick their lips and yawn more than is typical when they are stressed. More obviously they may even visibly tremble.
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If your pet is exhibiting any of the above signs, it’s important that you seek veterinary advice on what more can be done to help mitigate the stress and anxiety they are experiencing.