October 2018: Vet's Advice

October 01 2018

Remember remember pet safety in November

Autumn is here and we have enjoyed a beautiful summer where Avenue vets attended two very popular events –The Greyhound Gathering in July and recently Bark in the Park in aid of Friends of South Gloucestershire Strays. It was lovely to meet and greet our four legged friends and their humans and celebrate just how wonderful our dogs are. We also judged the dog show and we would like to thank all those who came to see us.

As we enter the autumn season our minds turn to seasonal celebrations such as Halloween, bonfire night and, dare I mention, Christmas! Avenue vets often talk about this topic now because as much as it is exciting for us humans, these occasions are not always fun for a lot of pets.                                       When it comes to fireworks, our pets do not understand the random flashing lights, loud crackles and bangs. They have far more sensitive hearing and sight and for some it can feel like the end of the world. Did you know that a recent study showed that at least 80% of pets are scared of fireworks!                                    Unfortunately, even one noisy event can turn a pet into a quivering wreck. Some dogs are so badly affected they attempt to escape the home, dig the floor, seek out dark secure spaces to hide or are in such panic they pace and tremble and are  unable to settle. Some dogs begin to have serious noise phobias and this is very distressing for both dog and their owner. But there are things that can be done to help these pets in the months before these events and here are our top tips.

Before the firework season starts:

• Plan a ‘safe zone’ for your dog or cat. This can be an indoor kennel covered with a blanket or a quiet area (eg under some furniture or a cupboard) where they feel secure and in control.  Your cat or dog should have access to this area at all times, even if you are not at home, and you shouldn’t  interfere with them when they are in this area. Train dogs to associate this area with a positive experience – i.e. by leaving toys there, or feeding their favourite treat. In time, your dog will associate this place as somewhere safe and enjoyable

• We can discuss a variety of things that can be provided to help your pet. Some dogs might benefit from calming therapies like pheromone collars or diffusers, calming sprays or  tablets. The wearing of a ‘Thundershirt’ (which applies constant pressure on the body) may help to comfort some dogs. Some pets may require anti-anxiety medication. Give Avenue Vets (0117 9569038) a call to book a free nurses clinic to decide what might help your pet .

• The long-term solution is to condition a dog to feel differently about fireworks. By playing audio recordings of fireworks very quietly when the dog is relaxed and doing something he enjoys, he can get used to hearing these noises and not feeling threatened. This method, carefully performed, will help to desensitise the dog to the sounds. These CDs or downloads are available to buy, and are so useful to use even if your pet isn’t scared currently. If you have a young pet, it can be used as part of its early socialisation program to help it grow up confident and able to cope.

During the firework period:

• Please ensure your pet is safe at home.it is so common for animals to ‘bolt’ when frightened and this is often the time when dogs are brought to the vets lost or injured. Please make sure your pet can be identified with a microchip and with your dog wearing a collar and tag, so we can get them home.

• Make sure your dog or cat has access to a ‘safe zone’ where they can hide, for example kennel, cupboard, or under some furniture.

• Don’t pick up or restrain a cat (or dog) that is scared. 

• Provide toys and food that they might enjoy.

• If possible (despite the early dark evenings), walk dogs during daylight hours and keep cats and dogs inside. 

• Close curtains at nightfall, and put on some music to mask and muffle the sound of the fireworks.  Try to use ‘black-out’ curtains to minimise any scary flashes of light. 

• Try to ignore the fireworks yourself. Act normally around your dog. Pretend as though the fireworks aren’t happening. Be cheerful and playful around your dog. If your dog comes to you for comfort, you can pet it but keep things low key and as normal as possible. If it isolates itself or hides, leave it alone, even if it is whining. Sometimes, dogs might run and hide under the bed or in their crate. If this happens, do not chase, follow or fuss, just check on it periodically.

We are always happy to discuss this in more detail and in serious cases we can recommend and refer to a specialist behaviourist. If your dog or cat struggled during the firework period last year – act now to try and make this period more enjoyable for you and your pet.  Long term improvements can take months to take effect but can vastly improve your pet’s quality of life around firework night. 

From us all at AVC –Happy Autumn!

Alex Brown RVN