Its that time of year again -Fireworks!

Noise Fears and Phobias – advice on reducing the impact of trigger events

We have put together a general advice sheet but, owing to the fact that November is round the corner,  we will focus on fireworks in particular but the advice can also be used in relation to most noise phobias.

There are many signs that your pet is anxious and worried – the most common signs of fears and phobias that are exhibited during trigger stimulus events are:

PANTING, TREMBLING, PACING, COWERING, HIDING & SEEKING OWNERS ATTENTION.

There are 4 main treatment options when it come to combating the upset for you and your pet and a long term solution for reducing or removing noise phobias. These are:

Natural anti anxiety / behavioural modifying drugs.
Our behaviour in response to our pets fear responses.
Creating a calming environment.
Desensitisation and Counter conditioning – the long term solution (needs to be implemented months before fireworks start).

Drugs
We recommend using drugs that have an anti-anxiety effect not ones that sedate your dog. It is important to test your pet’s individual response to therapy initially, as there can be a variation in how each pet will respond. All pets will need a full health check with their veterinary surgeon before medication is dispensed.
Xanax is suitable for short term use. As well as a good anti-anxiety affect lasting around 6 hours they also have a memory blocking affect that can stop your pet remembering a traumatic event. This memory blocking affect can be very useful especially if you unexpectedly are faced with a high level of the trigger and are working through a Desensitisation and Counter conditioning program. If the drug is given within one hour of the incident the brain will not form a long term memory and hence will not set you back on your path to resolution. We only advise this route if necessary and much prefer natural products as a first port of call.

We would always recommend using either an ADAPTIL collar/plug in and/or Zylkene along side any other medication and a BMP. These are natural and have proved very effective with many of our clients pets.
In the long term, regardless of if the problem resolves completely, we would recommend using Zylkene and/or ADAPTIL during predictable trigger events like fireworks night.

Our behaviour

Myth buster!! = you cannot reinforce your pets fear. It used to be the school of thought that if we cuddled and comforted our pets when stressed then we would be making them worse by reinforcing their fear. This, however, is simply not the case! A good human related example – Someone tries to break into your home in the middle of the night, what a frightening experience that would be! So you call on a friend to come and sit with you whilst you are still feeling worried and scared. Your friend hugs you and brings you a cup of tea – do you feel more frightened by this hug and tea?! Or comforted and cared for. Its ok to cuddle your pets people!

However, we would still advise that you are calm and settled yourself during these triggers. Try to act normally, for example – watch a movie with you pet cuddled on the sofa or potter around the house as usual.

A calm environment

For dogs: Adaptil = Dog Appeasing Pheromone (ADAPTIL) diffuser

Dog appeasing pheromones are secreted by bitches when they have puppies and serve to reassure the puppies especially at times of stress. It has been shown that this appeasing effect is still present in adult dogs.
This is the basis for the ADAPTIL diffusers/collars and they have been used successfully in combating firework phobias when used in conjunction with a behaviour management plan.
The diffuser works best if plugged in 2 weeks prior to the firework season beginning but will still have good localised effect in 24 hours. Ideally plug them in where your dog likes to hide or rest in stressful times and not near a window or external door.
Zylkene is another natural product proven to be effective in dogs and cats. It is a synthesised version of a product that is present in the milk fed to their young. Again like ADAPTIL this is something designed by nature to calm and relax young, this is just a manmade version. There is no lactose to bother tummy’s and it has no flavour so cats don’t mind it and it can be even sprinkled on dry food.

Make a den

This should be done ideally a few days or weeks before you need it so they don’t learn the den making means the fireworks are on the way. It can be a permanent or temporary structure. Ideally set it up near to where you sit to relax or where the dog seeks out to hide. Some suggestions would be a dog bed in the under stairs cupboard or a sheet over a dog bed in the lounge near where you sit. The sheet can be secured from the arm rest of the sofa over a coffee table or you might wish to get a dog crate and put the sheet over that. If using a dog crate always leave the door to it open. Once the den is made hide treats in there and favourite toys when the dog is not looking and whenever they choose to rest in there tell them in a calm voice ‘lovely settle’ or something along those lines. If your dog likes tummy strokes and massage spend lots of time offering him/her these things when he/she is in the den, providing you give them space if they’re sleeping.
Reduce the presence of trigger stimulus by shutting curtains, if your curtains are thin then double up with sheets and light weight dark blankets. You should also leave lights on to dilute the flashes of light.
During the day and evening play classical music in as many rooms as possible. Research shows that classical music increases rest periods in dogs.

For cats: Feliway diffuser

These are synthesised facial feline pheromones which, like the ADAPTIL diffuser, are released into the home by a diffuser.
They have a reassuring effect on most cats. They should ideally be used in conjunction with a behavioural modification programme.
For the best results plug in for 2 weeks prior to the season starting but it can be plugged in as little as a day in advance if necessary.
Zylkene can also be used as described above.
If your cat has a favourite cupboard they like to get into even if you don’t like them in there on fireworks night leave the door ajar and put a cosy throw for them to snuggle into. Spray the throw with feliway spray if you have any and make sure it’s not brand new rather something that is kept around the house so that it has comforting home smells.

Please note diffusers last for one month and refills will also last a month. Every 6 months the whole plug in should be completely replaced. They must be plugged in and switched on permanently. They most not be covered and must be kept free from hair.

Small pets

All small pets should ideally be brought onto the house or moved to a covered or sheltered area like a lean-to or garage providing it is safe to do so. You can use hutch covers to help reduce the visibility of flashing. If you bring them inside the home they must not be near the radiators and, as they get used to the heating, they cannot then be put straight back outside due to the sudden change in temperature difference.

Desensitisation and counter-conditioning

Desensitisation: This involves gradual exposure of your dog to the sounds of trigger stimulus i.e. fireworks under controlled conditions. It is possible to purchase CDs/Downloads of the sounds – these come with instruction booklets and must be used at such a low level that the dog does not respond / notice and is happy to offer normal behaviours. Over time, when they are ready, you start to build up the level and exposure.
We recommend the CD ‘Sound therapy 4 pets’ but there are many out there that supply these sound treatment programs, just make sure they are recorded in surround sound for authenticity.

Counter-conditioning: This involves actively training your pet to engage in a more appropriate behaviour when they hear the trigger noise (relaxing tummy stroke time for example) and completes the behavioural modification work for a long-term solution. Collectively, desensitisation and counter-conditioning work as a behavioural modification programme (BMP).

For a long term fix please contact Jo on 07958011127 or email info@pet-professionals.co.uk


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