THINK AHEAD … PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
During high levels of stress pets can be very unpredictable. They also become unable to take account of their own personal safety and may panic. Therefore, it is your responsibility to look after their safety needs.
Always make sure your pet is wearing an identity tag and are microchipped to ensure it can be returned if it escapes and becomes lost.
* During the firework season, try to stay with your dog whenever possible *
Exercise your dog during the day and never walk your dog when fireworks are being let off. Do make sure, where possible, that he has been to the toilet before a firework display begins. Keep your dog indoors, close the curtains and play music (moderately loud rhythmic music with a good beat) to drown out the noise. Let your dog hide if he wants to take refuge under furniture or in a corner.
You could make your dog a “den”. Make it a fun place to be and go there for cuddles, special treats or biscuits. Place lots of blankets, an old duvet or an eiderdown for digging and burrowing in. An old, unwashed item of your clothing in the den also acts as a comforter. Encourage your dog to use his den regularly. Have a water bowl in the den. Agitated dogs pant and so become thirsty.
If you know that a firework display is due on a particular evening, feed your pet a meal rich in carbohydrate (e.g. pasta, rice or mashed potato) with added vitamin B6 mid to late afternoon (unless prone to diarrhoea). This helps the animal feel sleepy and calmer. You can also try various herbal or flower essence remedies to calm him, particularly rescue remedy or valerian.
If your dog appears frightened do not cuddle or talk soothingly to him. Equally, do not get cross with him. Your dog must not think that you are the only one to help him when frightened, as you are not always going to be there. Try and totally ignore your dog if he becomes anxious (this is the hardest one!). Even looking at your dog is rewarding him. Don’t pay any attention to fear that seems to occur without reason. Wait for your pet to recover and then give him all the attention and praise you want to. Act in a happy, upbeat manner to show your dog that you are not scared. If your dog is only slightly agitated, try and get him to play games. The presence of a dog unafraid of loud noises will often help your dog.
Products that may help
Dog Appeasing Pheromone D.A.P. is the analogue of the natural dog pheromone released by lactating bitches to reassure and calm their offspring. This enhances the attachment between the puppy and its mother and conveys signals of well-being. The diffuser should be plugged into the room where the pet spends most time and switched on 24 hours a day for about 2 weeks prior to the fireworks. Feliway is a feline version and both products are available in a spray (available from vets, pet shops or on-line).
· Therapies such as Bach’s Rescue or Recovery Remedy is a combination of five flower remedies can calm and reassure during stressful times. Herbal remedies such as Valerian is well known for its calming and sedative qualities. It is a remedy that can be slow to act and works best if started a few days before a stressful event. Skullcap is another herbal sedative often combined with Valerian to calm and relieve anxiety and fear without drowsiness (available from pharmacists or health food shops).
Behavioural CD’s, which simulates the random and unpredictable noises of fireworks are available. This method will need to be started several weeks prior to firework season as you’ll need to start playing it several weeks prior to the firework season, gradually building up the volume and length of time played in order to condition the pets by reducing their fear by desensitising them (available from vets, pet shops or on-line).
For the minority of pets that are particularly sensitive, a sedative could help. Sedatives are prescription drugs, so your vet will need to give your pet a full health check before prescribing.
Hopefully using a variety of these methods you’ll be able to help your dog be more comfortable during firework season.