With fireworks season coming up we thought it'd be a good idea to write a post about how best to manage pets with fireowrk phobias.
Bonfire Night is a very traditional and welcome celebration for most of us as we enter the colder winter months. There is nothing better than watching the fireworks whilst sipping some warm mulled wine! However, for many of our pets, the weeks either side of November 5th are a time of terror.
Furthermore, fireworks are now part of the festivities for many of us over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Noise phobia is a problem for many dogs, and also to a lesser degree in cats. It is not fully understood why certain pets become fearful of noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms. Signs may include hiding, vocalising, shaking, pacing, dilated pupils and inappropriate urination. The good news is that our pets needn’t suffer unduly with a fear of loud noises. It is important for owners to understand that punishment increases anxiety levels, and comforting a fearful pet may reinforce the behaviour, both making the problem worse.
Management aims at reducing the level of distress to the pet. Owners can trial creating a safe sanctuary for a pet such as a cardboard box or carrier, trying to reduce the impact of the inciting noise by blocking out the sound altogether or putting on a radio.
Numerous prescription and non-prescription medications are useful in helping to sedate the pet or reducing anxiety. Diffusers are available for dogs and cats from the Arc, which release an odourless pheromone into the home to reduce stress. It is also possible to try desensitisation – exposing the pet to a gradually increasing noise stimulus, which does not provoke anxiety, until a level is reached where the phobia is eliminated.
It is important that owners of phobic pets prepare by speaking to us and discussing solutions well in advance of the anticipated event … so that we can all enjoy the fireworks!