It’s the time of year again that your dog dreads, writes Donview vet, Charlie Carnochan.
With evenings of fear, clinging to you for support, hiding in cupboards, shaking on his bed, there are a number of ways we can make these evenings better for him.
As we get closer to fireworks night many owners visit the practice for sedatives that make their dog sleepy. These will make the dog more comfortable while the fireworks go off. As fireworks night is getting closer this may be the only option to get him through the night, but sedatives do
have side effects and all vets will insist on a full check over and there are a number of safer options that should be considered.
In the longer term, there are ways that we can desensitise the dog to the noise, and eventually make him used to it, but we need to start this a number of months before fireworks night, so it is worth considering this for next year.
We use a ‘sounds scary’ CD which is designed for desensitisation of noise phobias. Recent trials have shown the CD to be significantly effective in the treatment of firework phobias. The CD contains recorded sounds of fireworks and a full set of instructions on how to use it.
Over time we can use this to get him used to the sounds. We often have to use this in combination with a couple of natural anti-stress treatments such as a DAP diffuser which releases a stress relieving hormones into the room or a treatment call Zylkene which is the same chemical that is released when puppies suckle milk and feel sleepy. With bad cases we have to resort to the use of stress relieving drugs during the desensitisation period.
We have to start the desensitisation process months before fireworks start so put a note in next year’s diary. The way it works is that we start the CD at a volume where we can hardly hear it. The volume and length of time the CD is played for increases over the week.
You can help your dog this year by creating a ‘den’ for your dog to retreat to when fearful, under the stairs or behind the settee, as long as it is a place when he feels safe. Encourage its use with treats etc. at times when he is relaxed. Use the DAP diffuser near the den and leave it on at all times as it lasts longer than if turned on and off - it lasts up to four weeks.
Walk and feed your dog a high protein meal well before dark, followed by a small bowl of pasta, rice or potato an hour or so later. This will boost
his serotonin levels and hence help induce a calm mood.
Don’t give your dog attention if he shows signs of fear, as he will think this is the correct way to act and that you are reassuring him that there is
something to fear. Be firm and authoritative, tell him to settle in his den and try not to disturb him unnecessarily.
Close the windows, draw the curtains and play music with a steady base beat. This will help mask the noises outside. Some owners have been successful in using soft retrievable earplugs, but be sure you can easily pull them out!