Firework season is fast approaching here’s some advice on how to help your pets during the oncoming invasion.
How do I know if my pet has a firework fear?
With some pets it will be obvious however others are more discrete, some common signs of fear include -
Shaking, shivering or trembling
Barking, whining, crying or howling
Hiding behind or under things
Going to the toilet unexpectedly or in strange places
Restlessness salivating or panting excessively
Why does my pet get so worried?
Many pets have what on the surface may appear to be an irrational fear of fireworks, do not worry it does not mean you have been a bad parent. When you think about it in more detail the reasoning’s behind the fear are completely logical. Due to the survival instinct inherited from the wild, animals are blessed with senses much stronger than your average human. Therefore the loud noises, bright lights and the smell of gun powder are amplified and some dogs may find this alarming.
How can I prepare for fireworks?
There are some feel good products which can help to relax your pet, Adaptil This is for dogs and comes in a collar, spray or diffuser.
It works by mimicking the pheromone a mother releases when she is feeding her puppies. Therefore reminding the dog of a time when it felt relaxed and protected.
This would need to be started at least a week before the event.
Feliway This is the cat version of Adaptial and it comes as a spray or diffuser.
If you watch a cat in its house it will rub its cheeks against household items. As they do this they mark the items as their home and indicate a safe and secure place by leaving a facial pheromone behind. Feliway is a copy of this pheromone therefore making the cat feel like it is in a safe secure environment.
Like with Adaptil this needs to be started at least a week before the event.
Royal Canin calm diet
• This is a pre prepared dry diet made by Royal Canin available for cats and dogs.
• When a mother feeds her puppies or kittens the milk she produces contains certain proteins, some of these proteins are also found in the Calm diet. Therefore when the cat or dog eats it the protein reminds them of the time when they were far more relaxed encouraging a calming influence.
• This diet needs to be started 10 days before the stressful event is due to start and the manufacturer claims the effects will remain for 2-3 months after finishing the diet. Zylkene
• This is a capsule which is given daily for a calming influence. The capsule can be opened and the contents sprinkled onto something tasty for difficult to medicate animals.
• The science behind the capsules is similar to the calm diet as the capsules contain caesin which is found in milk protein. Therefore once more reminding the cat/dog of how he/she felt after having a feed from its mother (calm and relaxed).
• Zylkene needs to be started a few days before the fireworks (or cues that the season is coming) start in order to have its full effect.
• The dosing for Zylkene is weight dependent, so if you are considering Zylkene its best to contact your vets who will able to discuss its use with you in more detail. Thundershirts or calming vests
• As the name suggests these are vests/t-shirts for dogs and come in a variety of sizes. They wrap around the dog creating a similar feeling to that of a baby being swaddled.
• If you decide to use one of these vests however it is vital that the vest is put on the dog whilst he or she is calm. Putting the vest on when he or she is already worrying will not help and may cause the dog to associate the vest with fear.
What can I do to help my pet cope on the night?
• The best thing you can do is have a night at home in front of the TV with your pet. The TV will reduce the sound of the fireworks and if you are calm and relaxed your pet will be too. Close the curtains or blinds to limit the bright lights created by the fireworks.
• Behave as normally as you can, do not attempt to reassure your pet and ignore any strange behaviour however irritating it may be. This may seem illogical, but by attempting to reassure your pet or correct unwanted behaviour you are reinforcing the message that all is not well, so it’s time to panic!
• Ensure your pet is indoors for the night and exercise dogs before it gets dark. If you have pets which are housed outside and unable to be moved attempt to sound proof and darken their enclosure as much as possible. A good way to do this is by covering the enclosure in blankets or towels.
What can I do if my pet is still fearful?
All is not lost!
There are a number of supplements and medications which can also help you pet. If you contact your vets they will be able to advise you on what would work best for you and your pet. How can I be prepared for next year?
There is a CD available called "sounds scary" it has a number of sounds pets can become scared of one of which is a firework. It allows your pet to get used to the sounds in a controlled environment. The CD comes with a booklet which tells you how best to use it. This kind of treatment needs to be started several months before the event in order to be effective.
If you have a puppy or kitten it is also a good idea to introduce the Sounds scary CD when they are still young to help with this year or in preparation for next year, puppies and kittens are much more comfortable with things they have encountered from a young age. By doing this at their most receptive age next year will be much easier for both of you.