Bonfire night is rapidly approaching and if your dog or cat suffers from a fear of fireworks you need to start treatment early. Please speak to any of our vets about firework treatment or desensitisation.
The medication for firework phobia is most effective when started well in advance of the predicted date of displays. We advise that if your dog or cat suffers from this problem, treatment should be started without delay. Animals should receive pheromone treatment, tablets if required and given a refuge where they can hide from the fireworks and feel safe within the house.
Your attitude and behaviour can make a big difference to how your pet reacts to fireworks, so make sure you know how to behave. Do not shout at your pet for being scared, or reassure them either as both these reactions just convince them that there is something to be scared of. Instead try to jolly them along and distract them, or if they won’t listen to you, ignore them until they are calm. Once the scary fireworks are over, it is vital to teach your pet that there is nothing to be scared of, by using behavioural training techniques and special CDs designed for the job.
How Do I Know If My Pet Is Scared of Fireworks?
Scared pets tend to hide away. Most cats will find somewhere to hide and then disappear for the night, so many owners do not even realise that their cat is terrified for fireworks, because they rarely see the cat.
Dogs often show a range of signs, including:
- hiding away, especially under/behind furniture
- cowering and looking to you for reassurance
- whinging or whining
- scratching at doors
- not wanting to go outside in the dark
- running away
- having accidents in the house
- generalised anxiety
You can help your pet both with medical treatment and by changing the way you react to your pet’s behaviour.
We find several medications very useful for dogs with Firework Phobia.
A pheromone which can be used as either a plug-in diffuser or an impregnated collar; both of which are used continually for several weeks before fireworks are expected. This is the scent bitches release when they nurse their pups. It makes adult dogs feel settled and relaxed.
A drug derived from a milk protein which reduces anxiety and helps both dogs and cats deal with stressful situations. It is taken daily around the time of the fireworks.
A drug from the valium family, which is taken on the nights when the fireworks happen, to help your pet cope with the fireworks and forget how scary they are.
The medications are not sedatives. They will not knock your pet out. Old fashioned medications for fireworks often did, but it was found that these drugs could actually make the problem worse.
What Can I Do To Help My Pet?
You can do a lot to help your dog at home, in addition to the medications.
- Walk them early, so that they are not outside in the dark.
- Feed them a stodgy, substantial meal an hour before fireworks are expected.
- This helps to make them sleepy.
- Build them a den. Give them a place where they feel safe and secure.
- Change your behaviour. Either distract your dog with a game or jolly them along.
- Reassuring is not helpful as it convinces them that there is something to be scared of.
- Shut the curtains to cut down noise and flashes.
- Play loud music to distract both of you from the fireworks.
What Can I Do To Prevent This Problem In The Future?
Once the fireworks have finished, you should desensitise your pet. This means training them not to be scared of fireworks. Special CDs are available and we can advise you how best to use them. It is very important for the welfare of your pet to desensitise them to fireworks, not just ignore the problem until next year.
If your pet has always tolerated or ignored fireworks and suddenly starts to behave unpredictably, then you should make an appointment with the surgery and have them examined. Changes in sensitivity to noise can be a sign of a another disease.