Well, summer is now officially over in the calendar sense and we welcome the arrival of autumn. One of the things that we humans love to do in autumn is celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with fireworks that represent the Gunpowder that failed to bring down parliament. The many displays bring us joy and delight and we revel in the spectacle and noise; unfortunately this night (and many nights before and after 5th November) bring a lot of stress and upset to our beloved pets.
Animals have far more sensitive hearing than we do, and the extreme loudness of many modern fireworks can cause them actual physical pain in their ears. As well as this pain there is a danger of injury (sometimes serious) if debris from, or a complete firework, hits an animal outside.
Here at Saint Leonard we have put together a few tips and hints so that you can ensure your much-loved pets are kept as safe and happy as possible.
Caged animals (including Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Birds, and Ferrets) can’t run away, which can often happen with cats and dogs, but this can also mean they can feel trapped and get stressed unnecessarily. One easy step you can take is to bring their hutch or cage inside if possible, whether into the house, or garage or shed.
If you are unable for whatever reason to bring their home inside yours, then something else you can do is to turn their hutch or cage to face the wall, fence, or hedge as this will help to dim the effect of the noise. Using blankets to cover their home will further muffle loud noises and also block out bright lights from the fireworks; just remember to make sure they still have adequate ventilation in to the cage.
For animals that like to burrow, giving them extra hay, straw, sand, or shavings to allow them to go deeper “underground” than normal will make them feel safer. Think of it a bit like a comfort blanket that children often use when scared of something; we all need a bit of reassurance occasionally, and your pet will love more for it 🙂
Cats and dogs have a natural fear of loud bangs and flashes, and the ones from fireworks can cause them to blindly panic and run from home, sometimes getting lost in the process unfortunately. The most important thing to do with these fur-babies is keep them indoors. If possible, walk Fido during the day so they don’t need to go out at night, and definitely don’t take them to a display. Due to their enhanced “flight response”, it’s perhaps a wise idea to ensure their collars or harnesses fit snugly to limit any possible escape if they are suddenly startled and try to wriggle out of them. If you are going out, remember not to leave your dog outside (and never tied up) or even in the car if you take them out with you.
Kitties are easily kept in; just ensure that as well as closing windows you also seal up their cat-flaps! If possible make them a little hideaway in a high place, such as on top of a cupboard or wardrobe; for some reason cats find this especially reassuring. Both cats and dogs like the comfort of a den, and one can easily be made from boxes, blanket, or their beds; just the simple act of “hiding” will make them feel safer.
Blackout blinds can help muffle sound as well as blocking out a fireworks’ flashing lights and are relatively cheap to buy and easy to fit. A lot of homes already have this type of blind in use to minimise light from streetlamps or security lights in adjacent properties. The noise from Televisions or stereos can prove useful when distracting our pets from the noise and disruption outside, and it’s a technique used on a day-to-day basis for some pets that are left at home whilst their humans go out to work (earning pennies to buy pet treats with!).
Our fur-babies take a lot of their behavioural cues from us, so try to remain calm and relaxed yourself. Try to keep to a normal routine as much as possible, even though it’s very tempting to molly-coddle them. If they pick up on your over-compensating behaviour and heightened anxiety then they will become more anxious themselves.
Cats and dogs often drink more when they’re stressed so just make sure that they have fresh bowls of water available, in case they need it. One obvious effect of increased drinking will be the need to urinate (wee) more and this feeling is further enhanced by fear, so if Pooch or Kitty have any “accidents” try not to be cross; they will be doing it from stress and fear, not deliberately.
As well as being able to take steps yourself to ensure your pet is as happy as possible, there are a number of products available on the market that can help too. Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we have a range of options available, just ring up and we can advise you on which will be best suited to your pet. Medications to treat anxiety can be prescribed by me or my colleagues, and we can also talk to you about Pheromone diffusers; these items emit calming chemicals that can be very useful for calming cats, and very useful for anxious dogs. There are some wrap/shirt items available for dogs that work on Acupressure points, and the gentle, constant pressure has seemed to be very calming for a lot of dogs.
Longer term, the use of de-sensitisation CDs and/or Behavioural Therapy can be a useful course of action to pursue. Ideally, behavioural therapy needs planning 3-6 months in advance and the CDs should be used over a period of time to gradually increase your dogs’ tolerance of noise. If you would like to discuss either of these options in further detail then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the SLVC team, it’s why we’re here 🙂
As always; stay safe and stay well until next time, and if you need us at all then just get in touch, we’re always here for you and your pet at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre.