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Dogs Trust is advising pet owners to look out for their welfare at Hallowe'en

Fireworks can backfire on pets

Bev Truss
Bev Truss

MOST of us are too busy organising our own affairs to even consider Hallowe’en and the misery caused by fireworks.

Each year, we are asked to keep our pets indoors or locked away safe and, each year, veterinary practices all over Ireland are full of dogs and cats that have become victims to fireworks, bonfires and their own terror.

Pets are terrified of the noise and can be driven to extreme behaviour. Some will go off their food, hide for days under the bed or in other small spaces. Some will bite and growl at their well-meaning owners trying to comfort them; this can result of the poor dog being thrown out into a much more terrifying environment. Some dogs are so frightened that they run off to get away from the noise and get lost, many ending up in the dog pound or, worse, under a car.

There is help at hand but, to give your dog the best chance, you should start to help them as early as possible in the year. Desensitising your dog to the noise of fireworks can take months and a lot of understanding on your behalf.

There are a few methods to help and, in general, waiting till the problem is upon us is, sadly, not going to help in the long term.

Using sedatives only deals with the symptoms and doesn’t address the long-term problem and, in general, can make your dog’s fear worse. Sedatives are not recommended in old dogs or dogs that have health issues and never in cats They can become dangerous if a dog or cat has a bad reaction, a reaction you may not know about if your pet is locked in his kennel or shed until you find him in the morning. Sedating your pet will make the phobia worse.

The treatment involves some long-term intervention, using special sound CDs, behavioural modification and perhaps an appeasing pheromone for dogs. There is also one available for cats to help with feline phobias and fears. Feliway is available in either a spray, for small areas such as the car for pets afraid of travelling, and also as a room diffuser, which is used for a number of behaviour problems around the home including firework and storm noise sensitivity.

Each dog or cat should be treated as an individual, as, just like people, they have their own ways of dealing with fear and stress. This means each pet must be given time and encouragement according to their character. A reason why one pet should react one way and another react differently depends on a large list of reasons. Indoor dog, outdoor dog, age, breeds, and most importantly, how you treat your pet normally.

Short-term solutions wear off. To help your pet cope and be less stressed, we have to offer a long-term treatment programme, individually-tailored to meet your pet’s particular way of dealing with this terrifying time.

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