From Mid October and continuing through until the New Year can be a traumatic time for some pets. Signs of ‘firework fear’ or the phobia of loud noises can range from mild behavioural changes to severe destructive behaviour.
Firework fears and noise phobias are the most common cause of noise phobias in pets and this can affect your pets quality of life. This problem is more common in dogs but can also affect cats and small animals. Noise phobias can intensify over time, but the owners attitude and involvement in effectively managing a pets phobia can have a positive influence.
This pet advice article will highlight how to spot firework fears and noise phobias in pets and provide information about what you can do to help a fearful pet.
Signs of fears and noise phobias
First of all it’s useful to know how to spot if your pet is fearful, and different pets will react differently. Here’s the most common signs that your pet is feeling frightened:
* Hiding away (under table, behind sofa – very common in cats)
* Seeking closer human contact
* Vocalising (Whining, barking or meowing)
* Trembling or shaking
* Not eating
* Pacing and panting
* Soiling the house
Helpful steps you can take at home
There are many things you can do to change your home environment to try and make your pet more comfortable. Here’s some tips:
* Ensure you have walked your dog’s earlier in the evening before the fireworks start.
* At night close windows and curtains. Put on music or the TV to mask the sound of fireworks.
* Keep cats indoors and block any catflaps to stop your pet escaping. Ensure your pet has been fitted with a microchip so that if they do run away they have a better chance of being reunited.
* If small animals are usually kept outside, bring them indoors or house in a shed/ garage. Provide lots of extra bedding so your pet has something to burrow in.
* If you are unable to bring your hutch inside, cover with thick blankets or a duvet to deaden out the sound. Make sure there is enough ventilation.
* Provide a ‘den’ for dogs (containing favourite blankets and toys) where they can hide.
* Talk to your vet about using a pheromone diffuser to provide a calming environment. The diffuser needs to be plugged in twenty-four hours a day and ideally from at least a week before the anticipated event. They help your dog and cats feel more calm and helps reduce the signs of stress that they are exposed to in challenging situations.
* Talk to your vet about non-prescription calming medications available to use in conjunction with pheromones and behavioural training
* Don’t drag your pet out from their hiding place, as this will increase their fear – your pet has chosen this place as a safe haven.
* Try not to punish your pet or get cross with a fearful animal as this will make them more anxious and reinforce their fear behaviour.
* Try not to reassure your pet either! This may prove difficult; however, you are reinforcing their fear by signalling that they are showing the correct response to the situation.
Emergency short-term help
In more severe cases, your vet may suggest or prescribe some medications which can be used as a short-term option.
Other than changes to the home environment and medication, you can try behaviour modification to ease your pets fear. This is more of a long-term management option which can be very effective. A process called ‘de-sensitisation’ teaches your pet not to react to the fear stimulus and then eventually to associate it with something positive. Ask your vet about the sound therapy and for further advice on behaviour modification.
Long term management should be sought rather than a quick fix. There is no guarantee that noise phobia can be resolved but managing it effectively will increase your pets quality of life and prevent phobias from becoming more intense.
For more information and advice please contact our team on 01604 648221.