It’s coming to the time of year that many pet owners dread. Autumn signals the arrival of celebrations such as Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night which often come associated with fireworks. While these displays may be fun for many of us, they can cause huge amounts of fear and anxiety for our pets. This can manifest as trying to escape, destroying toys or furniture, barking and howling, hiding away or just trembling and shaking.
Firework phobias often develop into more generalised noise phobias if left untreated, and pets can even become scared to leave the house after dark. Early intervention provides the best source of success for treatment, however improvements can be made to the quality of life of all animals during this time. Often many different options combined provide the best success, rather than relying on one magic cure.
- Provide a safe den for your pet to hide and encourage your pet to spend time there in the weeks before the main firework season (a puppy crate covered with a towel can be suitable).
- Use plug-in pheromone diffusers in the home, pheromone collars on dogs when out walking and spraying the pheromone in the safe den which helps to reduce anxiety levels. The pheromones available are Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats.
- Walk your dog early in the evening before it gets dark and bring your cat indoors before any risk of fireworks starts.
- Use a calming nutritional supplement such as Zylkene or Royal Canin Calm Diet.
- Use a Thundershirt which provides pressure around the body and can help to reduce anxiety.
- Sometimes prescription medication is needed to help your pet cope and to reduce further fear generalisation in future. Your vet can advise on the most appropriate medication for your pet. (Please note that ACP tablets which were used for many years are now recognised to be completely inappropriate for use during firework season. They sedate but don’t reduce sensation or fear so your pet will still be just as scared but unable to do anything about it. This can make them even more fearful in the future.)