Keep your pets safe on Bonfire Night

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Q I’m wor­ried my dog might be afraid of fire­works. What can I do?

Many dogs are afraid of fire­works and they re­act in dif­fer­ent ways. They may trem­ble, drool, pant or refuse to eat. Some dogs be­come very clingy with their own­ers while oth­ers will try to hide away.

It’s up­set­ting for you as well as your dog, and you will want to make Bonfire Night as easy as pos­si­ble for your pet.

A few days in ad­vance, pro­vide a ‘den’ where he can feel safe. Choose a spot where your dog nat­u­rally goes for a bit of peace and quiet, and make it com­fort­able – per­haps plac­ing blan­kets over a ta­ble and cush­ions un­der­neath, or just pad­ding out his nor­mal bed. On Bonfire Night it­self, take your dog for his walk good and early so he is safe in­doors be­fore the first fire­works start. Shut the win­dows and draw the cur­tains to muf­fle the sound and mask the flash­ing lights, but leave the in­ter­nal doors open so your dog doesn’t feel trapped in one room. You can also turn on the ra­dio or TV at a nor­mal level, to mask the sound of fire­works.

Q How can I help my cat stay safe over Bonfire Night?

Dur­ing the fire­work sea­son it’s best to keep your cat in­doors after dark. Even if she doesn’t nor­mally use a lit­ter tray, it’s a good idea to pro­vide one at this time to give her the op­tion, es­pe­cially as you’ll be keep­ing her in longer than usual. Cats can be harder to com­fort than dogs but don’t be tempted to pick her up or re­strain her. If she’s hid­ing it’s best to leave her in her cho­sen ‘safe spot’ rather than try­ing to coax her out. If you know where your cat likes to hide away, you could make it cosy with blan­kets or cush­ions a few days in ad­vance. Not all cats will hide; some may come to you for food or re­as­sur­ance. Try to act calm, and this will help your cat to feel re­laxed, too.

Q Can I give my dog med­i­ca­tion? She was ter­ri­fied of the fire­works last year

There are a few op­tions. Some are based on nat­u­ral chem­i­cals called pheromones pro­duced by moth­ers to re­as­sure their pup­pies. These come ei­ther as a plug-in aerosol for the room or a col­lar the dog can wear. There are sim­i­lar prod­ucts for cats, too. Be­sides these, there are tablets or cap­sules con­tain­ing nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents which can help to re­lax your pet. In ex­treme cases your vet may pre­scribe stronger med­i­ca­tions, but these can have sig­nif­i­cant side ef­fects and are not al­ways suit­able. If you are con­cerned, make an ap­point­ment in good time to dis­cuss the op­tions with your vet.

Q Are there any train­ing meth­ods I can use to help my dog cope bet­ter this year?

You should def­i­nitely not take your pet to a fire­work dis­play in the hope of help­ing them ‘con­front their fear’, as this will most likely make things worse. There are CDs de­signed to ac­cus­tom your dog to fire­work noises grad­u­ally. You start with the sound very quiet in back­ground, and in­crease the vol­ume over sev­eral days – but you must watch care­fully and back off if you see signs of fear. If your dog is very sen­si­tive to fire­works or other loud noises, con­sider ask­ing your vet to re­fer you to a qual­i­fied an­i­mal be­haviourist, who can work with you and your dog dur­ing what can be a dif­fi­cult time. Fi­nally, don’t shout at your pet even if it has done some­thing ‘naughty’ when scared, or you will only make it more scared in fu­ture.

Don’t try to coax your cat out from a ‘safe spot’

make in­doors com­fort­able for your pet

Emma march­ing­ton a small an­i­mal vet at Bre­lades Vets, in Sur­rey, is our ex­pert in an­i­mal health.

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