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Case File

Fireworks

by Zoe Coomber RVN

It’s that time of year, where loud bangs and pretty displays in the sky can cause terror and stress amongst our pets. With the correct amount of preparation, there is a lot you can do to make this a less stressful time for your fur babies.

Bertie, my dog used to be petrified of any loud bangs, especially fireworks but by putting in the time and effort, I can now relax, knowing that he is chilled out and accepting of fireworks.

Preparation is key with the firework season, especially as nowadays it can go on for a few months, let alone the odd night. There are many things you can do to help your pet through but these do need to be started in advance of the firework season.

 

What can I do before firework night?

Making a den/safe place for your pet

  • Introducing a den of some sort can be a really helpful thing for your pet as it creates a place of his or her own which is dark and is somewhere they can hide. This can be made either with a dog crate covered with a thick blanket in a quiet area of the house or by using a table or somewhere you can cover and make dark. It’s all about getting creative! When introducing an area unfamiliar to your pet, you want to do this slowly, with lots of rewards such as treats or toys.

  • For cats, prepare an area high up, in a room they often like to hide in. Allow access 24/7. Try to ensure where possible, for every cat you have, there are two hiding places so they have a choice of places they can go.

De-sensitisation

  • Using either a CD or music from you tube you can play the sounds of things your pet is scared of starting at an extremely low volume, whilst your pet is eating or playing. Over a long period of time you can build the volume up so that it is more noticeable to your pet, if done slow enough your pet will start to associate the sounds with fun things and therefore will make the experience much better. As this process takes a long time, we recommend starting in February once the fireworks are all out of the way meaning you have 8 months before fireworks should start again.

 

 

Using therapeutic medication

  • Adaptil/Feliway – comes in the form of a diffuser, a collar (Adaptil only) or a spray. This should be used at a minimum of 4 weeks before and continued throughout firework season to be able to see the full effect. The way these products work are by using a synthetic version of the hormone that your pets mother would have produced when they were babies to help make them feel safe and secure.

 

  • Pet Remedy – Comes in the form of a diffuser and a spray. This again should be used at a minimum of 4 weeks before and continued through firework season to see the full effects. This is similar to Adaptil/Feliway but is Multi-Species (meaning it works on both cats and dogs, as well as all our other pets and even us!). It is a herbal product that helps us to calm down in stressful situations. This is what I use for Bertie.

 

  • Zylkene – This comes in the form of capsules and should be introduced a minimum of 2 weeks before the stressful event. The theory behind Zylkene is the same of that with getting babies to sleep with milk. Zylkene uses a synthetic version of a compound that is found in milk that adults lack the enzyme to produce themselves, and helps our pets to relax in what can be seen as stressful situations.

 

  • KalmAid – This comes in the form of chewy tablets and liquid for dogs and a salmon flavoured liquid for cats. This product does start to take effect after 90 minutes, but I would recommend using it for at least a week before so then you know how your pet reacts to it. KalmAid contains L-Tryptophan (an amino-acid that the body changes into seratonin which helps pets relax)

 

  • Thunder shirt   – This is a fabric wrap-around garment that you put on your pet to help assist with calming them down. It acts by applying gentle constant pressure to several pressure points on your pet’s body, similar to swaddling an infant. There have been very good reports of these – my dog Bertie loves his and we use it with any stressful event as it helps to settle him down. There isn’t much preparation needed when using a thunder shirt, but it is definitely worth spending some time leading up to fireworks to get your pet used to wearing one before fireworks arrive. Using toys or treats to associate the shirt with a good time will help with this rather than him or her just having the shirt associated with fireworks etc.

 

What do I do when firework time arrives?

Walk and Dinner

  • Arrange to have a long walk with your pet during the day, before it gets dark and then give dinner early so that they have a chance to go out and toilet before it gets dark. Reducing the risk of them becoming spooked if they go out in the dark and a firework going off. Once they have been out, they should be fine then until the following morning.

Self-Planning

  • Never arrange to go out and leave your pet unsupervised with fireworks, as they can become stressed and may cause harm to themselves.
  • Always remain calm with your pet, try not to worry that they will become stressed as they will pick up on this and it could make them worse. Try to act as normal and stick in a normal routine as much as possible

TV

  • Turn the TV up slightly louder than normal to help drown out the sound of fireworks from outside

Curtains

  • Close the curtains or the blinds. If you don’t have curtains, try to block out windows and doors with a heavy blanket or a sheet to help drown out the noise or the lights from the fireworks outside.

Fuss

  • Most importantly, try not to reinforce your pet's behaviour when they are stressing by over fussing and potentially making them worse in the future. Instead, when they are being calm and ignoring what is going on around them, start playing a game such as fetch, or introduce a treat or chew that will keep them busy, and if needed provide gentle calm reassurance. This can be the hardest part as often you will feel stressed too and your pet can pick up on this.

 

 

As a last resort, the vets can prescribe different sedative treatments for your pets but we try to avoid these where possible due to the side effects that come along side them.

For more information, please pop in and speak to one of the nurses or the vets and remember preparation is the key to having a happier pet throughout firework season.