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Protecting pets from fireworks

Bev Truss
Bev Truss

ALTHOUGH fireworks are illegal in Ireland, we are all too aware of them as early as October. Each year we are asked to keep our pets indoors or locked away safe, and each year the veterinary practices all over Ireland are full of dogs and cats that have become victims to fireworks, bonfires and their own terror.

Our 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 in the poor dog being thrown out into a much more terrifying environment.Some poor 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.

Desensitising your dog to the noise of fireworks can take months and a lot of understanding and work 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 dogs fear worse.

Sedatives are not recommended in old dogs or dog that have a health issues and never in cats They can become dangerous if your dog/cat has a bad reaction, a reaction you may not know about if your dog/cat 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 behavioural modification and perhaps an appeasing pheromone for dogs (Adaptil) This is available from vets and can be used to help pets that have a number of phobias. 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 that each pet must be given time and encouragement according to their individual 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 you can give your dog or cat a place where they can hide. They might feel secure under the bed or hiding under an old duvet. Keep the curtains closed and the lights low to make the room dim and turn up the TV to mask the sound. If your dog wants to be near you let them be and perhaps talk in a low soothing tone to help calm them.

Short term solutions wear off, to help your pet cope and be less stressed and afraid we have to offer a long term treatment programme individually tailored to meet your pets particular way of dealing with this terrifying and potentially life threatening time.

Ask your vet assistance.

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