cat behaviour

IS YOUR PET AFRAID OF FIREWORKS?

MY DOG HATES FIREWORKS – LET’S BAN THEM!

Urgh, it’s that time of year again. Firework petition season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have serious reservations about people with no pyrotechnical training being able to buy industrial fireworks to let off in their backyard, but I think the focus of pet owner’s energy is in the wrong place.

I fully support calls for fireworks to be restricted to organised displays. The event can be advertised in advance, animal owners (and those with babies, PTSD, or who just hate fireworks) can make arrangements, and let’s be honest the displays are just a whole lot better and safer. But this still leaves a problem; what to do with the pets who are scared of fireworks.

HELPING YOUR PET COPE WITH FIREWORKS

It might seem tardy to post this after Bonfire Night…but 5th November is just the start of the fireworks season (unless you live in East Sussex where we have a big display somewhere every weekend from September to December in normal years!). Fireworks are an important part of Diwali, Christmas, and New Year events. And this year, with organised displays likely to be banned, there will be more unpredictable home displays.

HELPING YOU PET WITH FIREWORKS NOW

Walk dogs in the daylight and get cast indoors before dusk. Move outdoor caged pets inside.

Use curtains to muffle sounds and light and keep indoors well lit.

Mask noises with music or the TV.

Make your pet a secure snuggly den to hide in.

If your pet wants to snuggle up for a cuddle, let them. If they need to roam the house, let them do that instead.

Distract your pet with a game, tasty treats, or some training.

Contact your vet for calming pheremones, supplements, or medications.

HELPING YOUR PET WITH FIREWORKS FOR THE FUTURE

This is where I get frustrated. Every November there are hundreds of posts about pets being scared of fireworks. Yet how many of these pets get help from a behaviourist? I have only worked with one noise phobia case this year (he’s doing really well with a combination of more interesting walks, medication when required, and a new surround sound TV!). Whilst I don’t promise your dog will react like my spaniels (bang = where is the thing to fetch) it is possible to reduce the fear felt by most dogs through counter conditioning and desensitisation, and to come up with medication protocols for those who remain distressed.

PREVENTING FIREWORK FEAR IN YOUR NEXT PET

Look for a breeder who habituates their puppies or kittens to noise from an early age. I play my puppies CDs of fireworks, gunshot, traffic, babies….everything! This continues most days until they are at least 6 months old. I often play noises when they are eating or doing some training. As my pups get older I play the noise CDs less often, but often enough that they stay unconcerned. If they show any anxiety the volume goes down and I pair the noise with play or food. If a bang means sausage is coming it is much harder to stay worried about bangs!

Due to Covid-19 restrictions cancelling all our planned gundog work for November we now have extra appointments available. We are happy to do phone and WhatsApp consultations for noise phobias now which can be followed up with home visits next year.

Contact us at health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for a referral form and prices.

WELLNESS and ILLNESS

 

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR PET?

Most owners will answer, “I know him better than anyone!” but do you really know what is normal for your pet and would you spot early signs of illness?

Some symptoms such as coughing, limping or vomiting are easy to spot but what about more subtle changes?

INS AND OUTS…

A good pet owner will notice how their pet normally eats and drinks, and how much. Eating more slowly or becoming more hungry can be symptoms of illness. Chewing on one side of the mouth could indicate dental pain as could dribbling in small herbivores. With small pets such as hamsters check they aren’t simply storing the food and not returning to eat it. A good pet owner will also know how much their pet normally drinks. If drinking increases think about causes such as hot weather, drier food or a leaky water bottle for small pets. A great pet owner will measure water intake if they think it has increased and this information can give the vet a lot of information.

Good pet owners also monitor what comes out, taking note of how often and how much their pet urinates and noticing any changes in smell or colour. Some changes can be normal, for instance rabbit urine can turn bright orange with some foods! Good owners also observe their pets poop as consistency, frequency and even the shape can change in some illnesses. Seeing soft faeces in the rabbit hutch is a particular worry as this in uneaten caecotroph which can be a symptom of serious dental or gut disease.

Toiletting in diferent or innapropriate places can also be a sign of physical as well as behavioural problems.

BEHAVIOUR

Changes in behaviour can be the most subtle indicators of illness and wellness, especially in herbivores and cats (who can behave like a prey animal as well as being a predator).

Some behaviour changes may be very obvious, such as a dog not wanting to go for a walk or a rabbit becoming aggressive when handled but others such as a cat changing their sleeping place from the window ledge to the rug could easily be missed. Behaviour can change with medical problems as well as ‘behavioural’ problems so a check-up from your vet is advisable before embarking on any behavioural treatment or training.

Become a great pet owner and take the time to REALLY know your pet inside out!