Fireworks can be a pet owner’s worst nightmare, especially when you have no control over when they go off – there just does not seem to be a specific night anymore.
If your pet shows the following signs during a firework event, there are a number of things you can do.
- Cowering or hiding behind the sofa
- Trying to escape or digging up the carpet
- Soiling in inappropriate places
- Restlessness, pacing or overgrooming.
A PDSA survey showed that 61% of pets are afraid of fireworks!!
What you can do to prepare? Actually, a fair bit…
Build a Den. This is your pet’s own space where they have positive associations. This gives them somewhere to go to feel safe at all times when they are worried or uneasy. A den is useful all year round, but especially good for firework season. Make sure your pet has FREE ACCESS. This way they have chosen to go there and are not forced. Do not use it as somewhere to send them as a punishment. Let your pet become FAMILIAR with it. Prepare the den at least three weeks before events so that your pet can get used to it. SMELLS are very important so line the den with used blankets, towels or old clothes to make it smell familiar. TREATS & TOYS will help to enable your dog to associate the area with positivity. Cover the den with a blanket to muffle SOUNDS further. The LOCATION is important for the den, so make sure you put it in an area where your pet usually likes to hide and where they feel comfortable. For example if they like to hide behind the sofa, build the den there, but make sure it is away from any windows. Lastly, make sure you build the correct SIZE for your pet. Ensure they can comfortably stand up, lie down, stretch out and turn around.
Think 3D. Cats feel more comfortable up high, so have a good think about where you could build a hidey den for them. Airing cupboards can be quite useful! Like all resources make sure you have a hiding place for EACH cat, plus one extra. Even a single cat needs two dedicated hiding places.
Use pheromone therapy
Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone based on the chemical that mother dogs naturally emit to their puppies just after birth, to comfort them and reinforce the attachment between the mother and her offspring. It also encourages them to explore their environment. Studies have shown that adult dogs respond to the pheromone too. It has an anxiety reducing effect, and is known as the reassuring pheromone. Adaptil is odourless to people and other animals. Adaptil is available as a diffuser, a collar and a spray. We recommend that you plug a diffuser in as close to where you den will be as possible and have it switched on for at least a few days before fireworks are expected to take place. Adaptil collars can be put on your dog anytime – make sure they are fitted snuggly because it is the closeness of the collar to the dog’s skin warmth that activates the release of the pheromone from the collar.
Feliway is a synthetic pheromone based on the facial pheromone cats leave of objects and people when they rub their faces against things. By rubbing against something, the cat is leaving a ‘calling card’ to remind it that it is safe and to help it feel reassured. Feliway is a great anxiety reducer and is hugely useful in situations of stress and change. Cats can take alittle longer to respond to Feliway so we would recommend that you plug a diffuser in as soon as possible and keep in running for at least 3 months. Their response can also be quite subtle (I don’t notice my Feliway has run out until my cats start brawling! Plug in a refill and peace is restored) and some individuals may not respond at all – pheromone therapy will be based entirely on the individual.
Use a calming supplement
A natural calming supplement is Zylkene with contains a product derived from casein, a protein in milk. It is a molecule well known to promote the relaxation of new-borns after breastfeeding. A supplement like Zylkene can help dogs and cats cope during festivities which incorporate fireworks. Start Zylkene at least three days before the event is expected and continue throughout the season. Keep in mind this time can extend for a few months so make sure you keep giving the supplement possibly well into the new year.
Use a specially designed calming food
Royal Canin have a diet they have produced called Calm which is a diet for managing pets during times of stress. This diet uses the same derivative as Zylkene, aplha-casozepine. It also contains L-tryptophan which is an amino acid that the body requires to produce two hormones; melatonin and serotionin. These hormones control our mood, appetite, response to anxiety and our sleeping patterns. When changing your pet’s diet it is always do it over a few days to avoid upsetting any stomachs. Start by adding a small amount of the new food to the old diet then slowly build this up over the next 3 or 4 days until your pet has been weaned onto the new diet by day 4/5. It would be an idea to remain on the diet throughout the firework season, or even long term if your pet is showing signs of being more relaxed and less anxious. RCW Calm is a complete diet and contains all the nutrients you pet needs.
Update their identification
You should have your pets microchipped already, and they should ideally (dogs especially to comply with the law) be wearing a collar with uptodate visible identification (this information should be enough for a member of the public to contact you and to return the dog to you). The biggest failing with microchipping of pets is when owners do not contact the microchip database to inform them of address and contact number changes. Petlog is the biggest database of microchip details so contact them first to make sure your contact details are correct. If your pet’s ‘chips are not registered on the Petlog database they will direct you to the database you need. All database companies will charge an administration fee to change your details. Some companies offer a one off fee to upgrade to a ‘premium membership’ which will allow you unlimited changes throughout the life of your pet. Certainly worth considering….
So that is some preparation that can be done! See our next post of what you should do ON THE DAY of a firework event…….