Your monthly column featuring advice and news on animal matters from Davies and Johnson Veterinary Surgeons of Woodplumpton.
Winter is approaching fast now, and it will not be long before Bonfire Night and New Year are upon us.
We may look forward to the dazzling firework displays that light up the night sky, but for many dogs and cats, the bright lights and bangs can be a great source of fear and anxiety.
There are things, however, that you can do to make the night pass more easily for them.
Pulling the curtains, having the lights on and turning up the TV or radio will help keep out the bright lights and muffle the sounds.
Have a ‘den’ for them to hide in and feel secure such as their bed under the stairs or a blanket covered table, or, for cats,maybe a cupboard. Leave toys and treats hidden in the den to distract them.
Make the house secure, locking the cat flap so they don’t escape when they hear the loud noises. Make sure they are microchipped, just in case they do escape.
Beforehand, take them for a long walk and feed them a stodgy meal, such as boiled rice, to make them feel tired and sleepy.
If your dog shows signs of fear, it is best not to react to it, remain calm and behave normally. If you punish or fuss them they will sense your emotions, which can make them feel more anxious. Having a doggy friend around that isn’t scared of the noise of fireworks can also help a nervous dog feel more secure.
Plug-in pheromone diffusers disperse natural calming agents, which help relax both dogs and cats. Sedatives can be prescribed by your vet, and these can be used on the night.
Nutraceuticals are now available that help reduce anxiety. These are not as potent as sedatives and often have to be given in the days leading up to the fireworks to be effective.
Behavioural therapy can be useful too, desensitising your dog to the sounds of fireworks.
The ‘Sounds Scary’ programme is one that most vets recommend, or consider having your pet referred to a pet behaviourist for a more tailored programme.
Above all, be prepared and try to ensure they have a stress-free night.