Boom! Another air-bomb explodes outside and it's still almost a week until fireworks night. For pet owners with fearful animals, this is a difficult time of year. The nightly barrage of whizzes, screams and bangs turns these pets into anxious wrecks.
Fireworks can cause several problems in our pets. These range from mild stress, unintentional accidents through to the results of malicious abuse. The most common problems reported are:
Stress and Anxiety
Some pets will seem only mildly stressed, shaking, vocalising or pacing around the house. While others can become a lot more upset; cowering under furniture, pooping or weeing indoors, even damaging property.
Involvement in Car Accidents
Several pets each year are reported to suffer a severe injury on our roads as a result of running away from owners to try to escape the maddening noises and flashes. In their fear, they run blindly across roads with potentially tragic consequences.
Although the numbers of animals each year that are reported to suffer malicious injury is low the fact that any are harmed is unacceptable. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in 2002 published a report documenting several malicious attacks. In one, a firework was thrown through the open window of a parked car in Kilmarnock. The vehicle had two dogs inside at the time.
80,000 Pets Affected
Other figures published in an SSPCA report suggest that over 80,000 of our pets are affected across the UK. Incredibly this figure only represents those pets that were treated at veterinary surgeries and took no account either of livestock, horses or wildlife. So aside from an outright ban on fireworks, what can you do to help protect your pet this year at Halloween and fireworks night? Here are our suggestions.
1. Don’t have a private display in your back garden! This is a real “no-brainer”, but with so many families having young children there can be pressure to ‘get some fireworks in for the kids’. Sparklers, while less exciting, are still pretty awesome and more than enough to entertain kids, while fancy dress and face paints can easily replace the monetary excitement of a mini rocket. And none of the above is not going to stress your pet when used safely.
2. Close the curtains, turn the telly up loud and try to distract your pet by playing games with him. Above all else don’t leave a scared pet alone on Bonfire night.
3. Try not to get upset if your pet is stressed by fireworks. Stay calm, act normally and you will help your pet to get through the night. If you get wound up by your pet’s abnormal behaviour, you’ll make things worse. Also, if you spend the evening consoling them, you may unwittingly be making the problem worse by rewarding the unwanted behaviour.
4. Use calming pheromones. Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats are both available from the practice.
5. If your pet is extremely distressed by firework noise, then it may be possible to give him a sedative for a few days around November 5th, when the problem is at its peak. An appointment with Dr Emma or Dr Hannah will be required though to assess your pet’s health before giving any new medications. We can also discuss longer-term ways to help your pet to get used to the sounds and not become fearful - which is the best solution of all.
Wishing you a safe and fear-free Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night.