ASK THE VET
QEvery year at this time our collie gets so terrified of the fireworks, he goes crazy in the house and even poos and wees all over the place. We have tried everything. What can we do? Janice, Belfast
AFirework season heralds a stressful time for many of our family pets.
A survey by the RSPCA suggested that almost a quarter of dogs in the UK have some anxiety triggered by firework noise, or by some other loud bangs, such as a car backfiring.
This is not a minor nuisance: many pets become very, very stressed, and can take days to recover from the trauma. Some cry and scramble frantically for a safe place to hide.
Your dog sounds like he has a genuine noise phobia. The usual advice may not, by itself, be sufficient in such cases. Nevertheless, there are some common sense things which can be done. 1: Providing a safe “hidey-hole” is often very effective. If a dog/cat can hide away in a safe “den” he/she will often calm down. A covered pen/box for a dog, or an enclosed bed high up, perhaps on a work surface or on a wardrobe, works well for nervous cats. 2: Pulling the curtains at dusk and turning up a radio or TV to drown out the fireworks can be surprisingly effective. 3: Take dogs for walks while it is still light and before the noise starts. 4: Try to ignore any fearful behaviour: if he/she gets too much attention from you when stressed, they may assume there really is something to worry about. 5: Almost any response from you at this critical time can subconsciously reinforce the fearful behaviour. 6: Do not punish fear-driven behaviour: it will make it worse. 7:Consider the routine use of a pheromone plug-in. 8:Make sure your microchip details are up to date in case they are spooked enough torunaway.
In your case, and for many very stressed dogs, there are a number of medications your vet can prescribe for use at high risk periods. Prescribing practices are changing: some of the older sedatives are now believed to be contra-indicated in managing these phobias.
Talk it over with your vet.