Noise Phobias

Dose your animal have a noise phobia – take the test: Remember, remember your pets this November It is estimated that 80% of pets become stressed and fearful during the firework season. During the firework season or at the sound of loud bangs does you pet:

1. Run around continuously?
2. Hide – under the bed, behind the sofa?
3. Show destructive behaviours – digging, scratching or chewing?
4. Pants?
5. Eliminates – vomiting, diarrhoea, urinating in the house?

6. Shakes or trembles?
7. Drools excessively?
8. Cowers, tucks tail and or flattens ears?
9. Vocalises – wines or whimpers?
10. Seeks owners, or items with owners sent on them?

11. Constantly scanning of the environment?
12. Exaggerated response when startled?
13. Restless – pacing?
14. Licks self repetitively?
15. Bolts?

If you answered ‘YES’ to any of these questions, our advice is to book an appointment with one of our nurse to discuss an individual action plan for you and you pet

Below are some points to get you started…The aim is to enable your pets to find their own coping strategies to change their perception of these events from fear to calm behaviours. Here’s how you can help: Plug in an Adaptil or Feliway diffuser ideally at least 2 weeks before November, these are naturally produced pheromones to convey a message of security and reassurance

On the day of the event: Step 1: Ensuring the ‘Safe Haven’ area is ready

  • Add bowls of food and water, prepare treat balls, stuffed Kong’s etc in advance. For some dogs chewing reduces tension. However, don’t be alarmed if he or she does not seem interested in them
  • Adding blankets reduces the intensity of any outside noises and provides the opportunity to dig and burrow (while preventing self harm)
  • Include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog or cat can smell your scent and feel comforted by your indirect presence
  • If you plan to stay with your dog/cat ensure you have things for you to do as well so that he or she does not have to be left

Step 2: Feeding

If you know that a firework display is due on a particular evening, you can give your dog a carohydraterich meal in the late afternoon. Pasta, mashed potato or cooked rice are ideal, the sensation of having a full stomach will help to make your dog feel contented as the night draws in. Don’t try this if your animal is prone to diarrhoea or vomiting during the event.

Step 3: Your animal’s environment

  • Keep animals indoors, if usually kennelled outdoors but show anxiety at this time then we would advise bringing them indoors and ensure windows, doors and cat flaps are secure.
  • Walk dogs in the afternoon or earlier in the day and ensure your dog has emptied his or her bladder at least an hour before bringing indoors to settle
  • Close the windows and draw the curtains well in advance of it getting dark, this minimises the amount of noise entering the safe haven room from outside and avoids the animal seeing the flashes of the fireworks
  • Ensure your animal is wearing a collar and is micro-chipped in case they are able to get out of the house, Don’t forget to check the micro-chip information is up to date!
  • Put some music on, something with a constant distracting beat is an effective way to mask the firework noises from outside.
  • Keep your dog on a leash in public places and make sure that garden gates and fences are secure. Most cats manage their fear of loud noises by voluntarily staying indoors, you should encourage this behaviour and ensure that cats can access their favourite ‘bolthole’ (This is often somewhere up high, for example on the top of cupboards)

Step 4: Your Actions

  • Do ignore any fearful behaviour that are an exaggerated response to a stimuli
  • Do ignore the noises themselves and try to engage the dog in some form of active game – a command like sit, stay focuses their attention
  • If you know of a dog that is not scared by the noises and gets on with your own dog then keeping the two together during the evenings may help. Playing with the non-fearful dog if your own dog becomes scared may help to encourage the fearful dog that all is not so bad
  • Don’t punish your dog when acting fearful: in the dogs eyes this only confirms that there is something of which to be afraid
  • Don’t make a big fuss or try to reassure your dog when he or she is scared, as this rewards anxious behaviour. Reassuring your dog can actually increase anxiety through conflict of being told everything is ok when from dog’s point of view it is not. It is best to calm your dog without trying to reassure through distraction with an invitation to play or just walking around the room together relieves tension
  • Don’t try to restrain your animals, especially cats this can increase their anxiety
  • Try not to get angry if your animal causes destruction if left alone at this time, this can cause stress to an already anxious dog and make the situation more intense for your animal
  • Don’t take dogs to fireworks displays- with their acute hearing even if no signs of distress are shown they may not be happy in that environment After the Fireworks Season If these fears are left without appropriate therapeutic intervention such conditions are likely to worsen. It is recognised that the best approach to treat dogs and cats with firework or noise phobias is a programme of desensitisation and counter-conditioning.

To find out more about the options available to be able enjoy fireworks night together please contact the practice on 01392 460300.