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Posts Tagged ‘firework’

Preparing our pets for Fireworks season: Pheromones and Medications

Various medications are available to reduce our pets’ anxieties. These medications are used alongside a behaviour modification plan such as the desensitisation and counter conditioning described in our previous posts, and need to be started weeks or months prior to the fireworks starting. Often at the hospital we asked at the last minute to supply something to help to calm pets. Medications are available that reduce anxiety in the short term, and will help at the time but have no lasting effect – your pet will again suffer with the same fears next year. A key point for owners is not to be scared to use these drugs. By not medicating animals when appropriate we may be simply prolonging their suffering.

Pheromone treatments area available such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats. These are available as a plug-in, collar and now a tablet and may help some animals, but not all. Dietary supplements such as omega-3 supplements, zylkene and calmex again may help some dogs with mild phobias.

It is now possible to purchase a tight fighting wrap such as an Anxiety Wrap which is design to apply constant pressure to help relax muscles. Studies suggest these may help some, but not all, dogs. They are available through www.anxietywrap.com.
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Preparing our pets for Fireworks season: Desensitisation

It might seem early but now is the best time to start thinking about the fireworks period. Fireworks often start well in advance of the traditional 5th November, and can easily continue on through to the New Year. Some pets may be sensitive to noises such as the sound of fireworks. These pets will have a heightened fight or flight response to these sounds causing a behavioural response.

In order to help correct this behavioural response, desensitisation and counterconditioning approaches can be used.

The first process is desensitisation, the aim of this process is the lower how sensitive an animal is to a particular noise such as fireworks.

Start by playing the noise your pet is sensitive to, such as fireworks at a low volume, gradually increasing by a small level each time, each time waiting for them to settle. If they become agitated then reduce the volume down to a volume where they settle again.

This process is ideally completed on a gradual basis over a period of few weeks, then can begin implementing counterconditioning.

Look out for our next blog on counterconditioning later this week.
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Are you and your pet prepared for Fireworks season?

It might seem early but now is the best time to start thinking about the fireworks period. Fireworks often start well in advance of the traditional 5th November, and can easily continue on through to the New Year. Recent studies show that the majority of dogs will react to fireworks in some way, and often we see this as acceptable. Yet for approximately one in ten dogs, they will develop a true phobia. Equally, many dogs tend to show progressively distressing behaviour towards fireworks year on year. Dogs initially showing mild to moderate fear may progress to severe phobias later in life unless proactive measures are taken as soon as possible. To take action NOW is the key to dealing with this distressing condition.

Behavioural therapy
A long term goal should be to generally improve our dogs’ reactions to fireworks. One of the proven techniques to achieve this is Sound Desensitisation and Counterconditioning. The tools required for this are now available free of charge on www.dogstrust.org.uk. There are free downloads for the sounds required and very thorough instructions on how to undertake this type of therapy. This technique has strong evidence in helping dogs with firework phobias (and can in fact be extended to other noise phobias such as storms and gunshot noises), but should only be started once all chance of fireworks happening have passed. The complete program should be expected to take from three to six months and needs to be undertaken thoroughly. To undertake the full program takes time and commitment, yet should truly help your dog long-term.

Long term therapies
For some of our dogs a firework phobia may be just the tip of the iceberg. It may be part of a more generalised phobia or anxiety condition. If your dog shows severe responses to firework noises, or perhaps is fearful of every day noises, such as doors slamming or traffic, then it may be sensible to speak to one of our vets to discuss approaches which may help with broader behavioural concerns. These can take several months to be take effect, so again now is the best time to consider these type of treatments.

Coping strategies
Most dogs will be aware of and react to fireworks. Many have developed their own ways of coping with them. Yet for others they have no way of coping with the extreme noises from fireworks. This will often result in our dogs frantically pacing around the house in a very distressed manner, or they may simply try and hide, often unsuccessfully. One proven technique for helping our dogs to cope is the combination of providing a safe den, alongside the use of either pheromone collar or plug in. Remember, there is good evidence that these techniques significantly help dogs with firework phobias. Again, we should consider “training” our dogs to feel positive about using a den, and so they should be put in place at least one to two months before the fireworks start, and to positively reward our dogs for using them. The den itself can even be used throughout the year to act as a coping mechanism for other phobias such as thunderstorms.

Short term therapies
For pets where we have not had enough time to undertake the above strategies, then we may need to use medications to help at the time of the fireworks, for example New Year’s Eve. The aim of these should be to reduce anxiety and fear rather than to simply sedate. For some of these medications there is no predictable dose for each individual dog. Therefore, they will need to be tried before the time of the fireworks as a change of dose may be required depending on how your individual dog responds.

In summary, we need to plan ahead with dealing with firework phobias. This is not a problem to be dealt with on the 4th of November! Take action NOW to really make a difference for this truly distressing condition which many of our pets suffer with. If you need any help or guidance, please contact us for an appointment. Further advice about the firework season can be found at www.adaptil.com or www.petremedy.co.uk.
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