Fear of loud noises, particularly fireworks, is a common problem in dogs and cats and is likely to be particularly relevant in the next few weeks.
A badly frightened animal might tremble, salivate, hiss or bark, lose control of bowels or bladder, try to hide or run away, possibly causing damage to themselves or your property in their attempts to escape.
These reactions not only become more marked the longer the noise continues, but are also likely to worsen with repeated exposure.
In extreme cases, firework fear eventually escalates to a more generalized fear of all sudden noises, making life miserable for you as well as your pet all the year round.
The best method of dealing with this problem is a combination of desensitization and counter conditioning (associating the trigger factor with a pleasant experience).
This is not a quick fix solution; it requires time and commitment from the owner and should be started well in advance of the firework season.
However, if done properly, periodic brief refresher sessions should ensure that you have a calm and relaxed pet come firework time.
However, there are many ways of helping at the time:
Do not sympathise or show any fear yourself - this just re-enforces your pet’s feelings.
Remain upbeat and unconcerned.
Soften the trigger factors by drawing heavy curtains, playing loud music, heating scented oils to counteract the firework smell.
Be safety conscious - exercise dogs before dark then keep doors locked; secure the cat flap and provide a litter tray.
If your pet is microchipped you are more likely to be re-united with one another after any escapees.
Feed an early supper containing lots of carbohydrate such as rice, mashed potato or whole wheat pasta, along with a sprinkling of brewer’s yeast to decrease anxiety.
Provide a suitable hiding place - warm, cosy and dark.
Make this area attractive by feeding treats there for some time beforehand and/or using a pheromone spray or diffuser.
Finally, consider medication. Sedatives not only increase sensitivity to noise, but by making the pet feel woozy, are more likely to lead to a panic attack.
There are many alternatives which do not have this effect - see www.heathfieldvets.co.uk for more information or ask your vet for advice.