Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Bonfire Fears

Bonfire night is fast approaching in the UK. Thankfully this year we have not had the 4 week lead up with rockets and bangs every night, there is still intermittent fireworks but not as intense it was. This is a big help for those of us with pets that are terrified of fireworks. Although it still leaves several nights over the bonfire period when the pets are going through hell.

Before my other 2 dogs died l had 2 that were bomb proof and one that turned into a dribbling mess at the bangs. Then Wibble decided that she preferred to follow Santa’s lead and also turned into a gibbering wreck. Poca always ignored fireworks. Now Wib’s has gone nearly deaf it takes a lot for her to start her “gibbering wreck routine” but it is not as bad as it was when she could hear.

When l was VN training at “agent oranges” place (The American chemical defoliant) I remember a lady coming in with her badly burnt young cat. This was the cats first experience of fireworks. He had shot up the chimney, unfortunately the fire had been lit. He suffered burnt feet, tail and had singed elsewhere.

The second year we couldn’t believe it, she was back, the cat had been hit by a car. The lady had kept the fire out and blocked the chimney, taken every precaution she could think of and was about to leave the house one afternoon. As she opened the door a bang exploded and the cat got through the door and hit by a car.
1 fractured pelvis and an operation later she decided that in future when ever bangs were expected she would take him to a cattery in the country that was pretty much nowhere near bangs. A bit extreme but with his history a wise precaution.

Now is to late for intensive “Bang” therapy, but not to late for general therapy. You can also start, once the fire works are over, thinking of New Year fireworks.
There is still some steps you can take. Ideally, some like DAP and Sound Therapy should have been started over a month ago, however it does not mean that they are not effective.

For medical help have a word with your vet and the ones who are switched on will arrange a diazepam type of sedative. This tablet will help calm, but may not stop your pet getting scared. It allows your pet to go where they feel safest.
What it does is wipe the animals memory of the fireworks. This means that instead of the fear being reinforced year after year, they start from a clean slate. The fear is not gone but it is not building up like a skyscraper.
Just because your pet may still be afraid do not go back to the awful yellow tablets.

The yellow ACP that some vets still use should be avoided. It seems like your pet is asleep but the reality is different. They are held immobile and scared as hell and unable to react. They remember every bit of the night and their terror is reinforced by their inability to do anything about it. The skyscraper is built sky high every year and keeps climbing unlike the effect when using the other tablet.

I know one vet, a friend of mine, that uses the 2 together. But as Sarah Heath (one of the worlds best animal behaviourists) did not recommend it l have no comment on the mix. (unusual for me not to comment!)

Some vets also recommend a herbal medication again discuss amounts and type with your vet.

NEVER give ANY medication that has not been arranged by your vet. It MAY and CAN KILL your pet.

Turn your radio or TV up very loud, turn on the lights and close the curtains/blinds to help block out the flashes.
Allow your pet to go where they feel safe, although they may not be sure and tend to try several places in quick succession. Do not lock them in where you feel they should be, or where they are out of your way.
Cuddling them every time they dive on you, or crawling under the chair or bed to cuddle them is not actually a help. You are better treating the bangs and flashes as though they are an everyday occurrence. Rewarding the fear reinforces it.

Alongside any medication you should use DAP or Feliway both of these are available without prescription and are smell based and 100% animal safe.

The DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) is based on a pheromone produced by bitches who are lactating. It is partly responsible for bonding between the mother and her pups, and it also makes them less anxious and more receptive to new things. When they get the smell of the pheromone it acts as a calming aid to dogs.

For cats there is Feliway it is a pheromone that cats leave on furniture and objects in their home environment. In the wild this chemical is used to mark an area as safe and calming for the cat.

Both have been replicated but only dogs can smell the DAP and only cats the Feliway.
The 2 come as either diffusers or sprays the dog one has just come out as a collar as well.
The one thing to bear in mind if you are using DAP or Feliway don’t use household air fresheners, these will overpower the DAP and FW and render them useless.

The same company that produces DAP and FW also produce a cd called Sounds Scary. This is to help desensitise dogs and is designed to be used in conjunction with the DAP. Most dogs with a phobia are afraid of more than one noise, so this pack contains sounds of gunshots, thunder and fireworks as well as rain, hail and the shrill and whooshing noises that fireworks make as they take off.
They produce CD’s for other pet related therapy. If you are about to have a new baby in the family, teaches you and the dog/s how to cope. If you are getting a new puppy to help him settle. The CD’s are well worth looking at.

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