Don’t let the sparks fly on Bonfire Night

WALKING into my local supermarket last weekend, I was immediately faced with the dreaded seasonal triple whammy of Christmas, Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes’ night.

Naturally, I turned around and left. The first is too far away for even the remotest thought on a sunny autumn day, the second only evokes memories of a fancy dress party I’d rather forget, while the third strikes fear into the heart of many a pet owner.

As November 5 draws nearer, I thought it well worth exploring how we can keep our pets safe and calm.

Dogs show fear and anxiety in different ways, but the most common signs to watch out for are trembling and shaking, clinging to owners, barking excessively, cowering and hiding behind furniture, trying to run away, pacing or panting, refusing to eat or even soiling the house.

The issue with fireworks is the very high pitched noise they make, as well as sudden bangs, causing fear and anxiety. Bright flashes of light and vibrations can have the same effect. Keeping pets in the house during displays is obviously important. Ideally, outdoor pets should be brought indoors or have their hutches or runs covered.

Many pets appreciate a ‘den’ of some kind that the can hide in. This can be made from their bedding and should be positioned somewhere they identify as safe – behind the sofa or under a bed for example.

While it’s tempting to offer constant reassurance to your pet, this can actually be detrimental. At the other extreme, punishing your pet for its unwanted behaviour will also serve only to reinforce the fear and anxiety. Remember that dogs will pick up on behavioural cues from their owners, so try to avoid any acknowledgement of fearful behaviour. It’s definitely better if you’re at home with your pets because they will be more relaxed if there is a familiar person around.

Distraction can be very useful – try playing with new toys or chews. The TV can be especially useful. Noisy programmes or films are ideal for disguising noises outside.

The development of calming or appeasing pheromone products has proved extremely helpful. These are essentially scents that your pet can detect, but people can’t. They come in the form of plug-ins, a bit like plug-in perfume diffusers. They should ideally be in place two to three weeks before the event.

Finally, in extremis, we can prescribe medications to help calm or even sedate pets and help reduce anxiety. But we’d really rather not! With this in mind we’ve organised a free evening meeting in conjunction with the experts at Ceva Animal Health. Feel free to some along, contact us on 01670 512275.

CHRIS GREEN, Director and Senior Vet