As we come closer to Christmas and the New Year, it is important to remember that our celebrations can have quite a negative impact upon our pets. Christmas involves many changes in routine, parties, visitors and excessive noise in the neighbourhood. Summer time also means a higher occurrence of thunderstorms.
New Year’s Eve can cause severe distress in our pets if they have a fear of fireworks. Pets do not overcome their fear of noises or thunderstorms and most often the problem gets worse with every exposure.
Here are a few tips to help your pet cope with firework fears or thunderstorms
- Ensure your pet is safely inside and secure doors, windows and cat flaps.
- Allow your dog or cat to hide in an area where they feel safe.
- Make sure your dog or cat is microchipped. If they do escape, frightened animals can easily get lost.
- In the few days before fireworks are scheduled, ensure dogs are used to be taken for a walk early in the evening and cats have access to a litter tray (if they normally toilet outside).
- Play music and/or have the TV switched on to help mask the noise of fireworks and thunder claps.
- Comfort your pet in a reasonable manner and promote calm behaviour by displaying calm behaviour yourself. Cats prefer to be left to cope on their own.
- Don’t get cross with or punish your pet, regardless of their behaviour, as it will only make them more distressed.
- Try not to leave your pet alone when fireworks are going off or during thunderstorms. Pets may hurt themselves or cause damage when not supervised.
- Speak to your vet about treatment options. There are products that may help your pet deal with their fear or anxiety. Your vet may also wish to refer you to a qualified veterinary behaviourist.
Products containing pheromones are available to help our cats and dogs cope with fear of fireworks.
Pheromones are chemicals that animals use to communicate to one another. There are many pheromones in the animal kingdom providing several different signals. ADAPTIL™ (for dogs) and Feliway® (for cats) contain copies of an animal’s natural pheromones and have been scientifically proven to significantly reduce some unwanted behaviours that result from stress or anxiety.
ADAPTIL™ contains Dog Appeasing Pheromone, which is a synthetic copy of the natural appeasing pheromone that puppies are exposed to after birth when feeding from their mother. When used on any age dog it mimics the properties of this natural reassuring signal, thus reducing anxiety and preventing fear and stress related behaviours. ADAPTIL™ has been scientifically proven to reduce the intensity of fear felt by a dog during firework and thunderstorm exposure and is available in three formulations (spray, diffuser and collar).
Feliway®is a synthetic copy of the natural feline facial pheromone used by cats use to mark their environment as safe and familiar. When used in the home it signals to cats that they are in a secure environment. Feliway® has scientifically proven to reassure cats and help reduce fearful reactions to loud noises and prevent stress due to indoor confinement. It is available in a diffuser and a spray.
How can pheromones be used?
Once the decision has been made to use a pheromone to help with an anxiety based problem, the choice of formulation depends on each individual situation. Your veterinary health care team can assist with advice in this area but some suggestions include:
Diffuser: useful for pets that spend most of their time in one particular room. The diffuser simply plugs in to a power point and ideally should be plugged in three to four days before the expected change in the pet’s environment takes place, i.e. before fireworks are due or thunderstorm seasons starts. Please read the instruction leaflets carefully to ensure safety guidelines are followed and to ensure maximum benefit is gained from positioning.
Spray: can be sprayed onto a bandana tied around your dog’s neck or onto your dog or cat’s bedding (not directly on your pet)
Collars (dogs only): useful for dogs that spend a significant amount of time outside or move from room to room when inside rather than settling in one particular location to sleep.
ADAPTIL™ sounds desensitisation CDs have also been proven to be an effective tool when used in combination with the above methods for treating firework phobias in dogs.