the Fifth of November,
and ... pets?
It’s hard to be a vet for any length of time and remain a fan of fireworks.
Seeing one dog that has hurt itself trying to escape from the noise puts you off. Seeing hundreds of them over the years, shaking and terrified, is enough to make you wish we forgot that the Gunpowder Plot had ever happened.
Can’t we celebrate the Spanish Armada victory instead? We could all go swimming instead. Healthier for us, and better for our pets – no cannons, though, please.
It has been made worse in recent years by the fact that Fireworks ‘Night’ has managed to extended itself over the best part of a week, and so pets still anxious from the night before are subjected to another bombardment that evening.
It can be a very difficult time, so here are some tips to make fireworks as stress-free as possible for your pet, and for you.
Practical Tips for Pets and Fireworks
Firstly (and I hate be a spoilsport, but I have seen a lot of upset pets) if you’re having fireworks yourself, please consider the silent variety. You can still say ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, and no one needs to get scared!
Keep your pets indoors - lots of pets go stray on bonfire night. Make sure they have plenty of exercise earlier in the day, and then keep them in as soon as it starts to get dark (also, having your cat or dog micro-chipped will help to ensure a speedy reunion if they do manage to escape).
Make sure your pets have somewhere secluded in the house that they can escape to. Background noise can help too – dogs and cats have much better hearing than we do, so it’s worth starting the soothing music early (Radio 3 works for me, but I am getting old... other background noises are available) – if you wait until you can hear the fireworks, your pet may already have started to get anxious.
Desensitisation therapy can help a great deal – the full details are beyond the scope of this short post but essentially it involves slowly getting your pet used to the noises. It should only be done under veterinary or behaviourist’s advice, and it takes months – so it’s already too late for this year, but it’s a good time to start thinking about it if this year is a bad one!
Speaking of veterinary advice, there are a variety of medications than can help.
Nervous pets run the spectrum from quiet anxiety to full-blown noise phobia, and so the drugs used to help vary from mild tranquilizers to heavy sedatives. Your vet will advise you on the best medication to use – but please, don’t leave it until the evening of November 5th.
Your vet will need to check over your pet, partially to assess what, if any, medication is needed, and partially to check your pet is healthy enough to take them.
If you leave it until the last minute, not only will you struggle to get an appointment, the waiting room will be full of nervous pets and owners when you get there, and the trip will raise your pet’s anxiety levels.
Also, any medication prescribed may not have time to work effectively – many medications need several days of treatment. Book your appointment well in advance!
That’s all for now. I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Bonfire Night!