NOISE PHOBIAS IN PETS AND TIPS FOR BONFIRE NIGHT
Noise phobia refers to the behavioural and clinical signs of fear and anxiety in response to sounds of certain loudness, pitch and suddenness and it can affect many pets.
Clinical signs include panting, trembling, cowering, hiding and attempts to escape, as well as self-trauma and property destruction.
Fireworks, gunshot and thunder are the top triggers and left untreated, noise phobia can progress to a more severe state and the development of other anxieties.
Treatment can involve environmental management, behavioural therapy, pheromone therapy and medications.
TIPS FOR BONFIRE NIGHT
Bonfire Night can be very distressing for many pets and their owners. The following suggestions and ideas can help to minimise the stress of this time of year.
• Try to take your dog for a walk before dusk so that they are relaxed and will not need to go out to the toilet once the fireworks start.
• At dusk ensure that your dog is safe indoors. Do not leave your dog alone if fireworks are expected.
• Feed your dog in the mid to late afternoon, as this can also help them relax.
• Provide a safe place your dog can retreat to, but do not shut them in. As long as it is safe, allow your dog to find the place they feel most comfortable. This may be with you or it could be under a bed!
You can help guide this choice by providing a safe “den” well in advance of the event. This could be a dog crate or box covered on three sides and with blankets for them to dig into.
Encourage your dog to use and make positive associations with the den by putting treats in it.
• Drawing the curtains can prevent your dog from being startled by flashing lights.
• Playing music or turning up the volume on the television can help to mask the sound of the fireworks.
• If your dog has never reacted to noises before try not to act as if there is something to worry about. Simply say in a cheerful voice “that was loud” and then try playing a game or doing some training with them to help form a positive association with the fireworks.
• Avoid any confrontational interactions and do not punish your dog for showing fearful behaviour.
• If they are frightened, it is OK to comfort them. However, some owner behaviour can increase their dog’s perception of a need to protect itself from the negative sound stimulus.
Try to avoid encouraging proximity, hugging or making facial contact i.e kissing your dog’s head.
• Ensure your cat is safely indoors before dusk and that all windows, doors and cat flaps are secure.
• Even if your cat does not usually use a litter tray, make sure that one is available at this time of year.
• Close the curtains to minimise flashes which could frighten your cat.
• Putting on music or turning up the volume on the television can help to mask the sound of fireworks.
• If your cat seems quite relaxed, try playing a game and offering flavoured treats to help form positive associations.
• Ensure your cat has suitable safe places to hide if required. Cats will often choose to hide in a dark cupboard or under a bed, so make sure these places are accessible and also offer a selection of boxes in various locations for your cat.
Do not try to move them once they have selected a hiding place.
If your pet dog or cat was to panic and escape during the fireworks season a Microchip can help to ensure that you are reunited.
Small Pets/ Birds
• Consider bringing pets inside, if possible, or putting hutches into a shed or garage.
• If your pet lives outside, ensure that their cage or aviary is safe and secure.
Soundproof it as best you can (tarpaulin or old duvets can be useful).
• Offer extra bedding for pets to burrow into. Upturned cardboard boxes stuffed with hay can provide a good hiding place for small mammals.
If you are planning a bonfire, make sure you check thoroughly for wildlife before lighting the bonfire.
My pet was very frightened by fireworks last year, what can I do?
If your pet has previously shown fear of fireworks or other loud noises, then be prepared this year.
Left untreated, sound phobias will often become worse over time. Prepare safe hiding areas and consider installing pheromone diffusers (see below) which can help your pet to feel more secure.
You could also schedule a consultation with the vet to discuss other treatment options.
Animals communicate through natural “happy messages” released from different parts of their body. Scientifically these are known as pheromones.
The natural dog appeasing pheromone that the mother dog produces to comfort and reassure her puppies is available as a synthetic copy.
The commercial product ADAPTIL® has been scientifically proven to help both puppies and adult dogs cope in stressful situations such as fireworks and loud noises.
ADAPTIL® for dogs comes in four different forms: plug-in diffuser, spray, collar and tablets.
FELIWAY® uses a synthetic copy or ‘analogue’ of natural cat pheromones, to send calming messages to cats. Its efficacy has been proven by over 30 clinical studies.
FELIWAY® for cats comes in two different forms: a plug-in diffuser and a spray.
Noise phobias and firework fears can be treated successfully using the learning principles of desensitisation and counter-conditioning.
Using both of these components, long term resolution of a noise phobia is possible, so that the next fireworks season will be less stressful for you and your dog.
Desensitisation aims to reduce the emotional reaction to the fear-inducing stimulus. With repeated exposure and a gradual increase in sound volume, the dog ceases to react to the noise at any level.
At this point, the process of counter-conditioning can begin. Counter- conditioning repeatedly presents the same sound stimuli, but in association with something positive and enjoyable.
The ultimate result is a positive emotional response of relaxation and pleasure to the previously fear-inducing stimulus.
We recommend Sounds Scary, an easy-to-follow therapy pack for dogs. It includes a specially made set of high-quality sound recordings and an easy-to-follow guide.
Desensitisation programmes using ADAPTIL® and the Sounds Scary CD has been scientifically proven to be an effective combination for treating fear of fireworks in dogs.
The amount of training needed will vary from dog to dog and this therapy must be also carried out when firework events are unlikely to happen. Consequently, this approach needs to be initiated well in advance of the firework season.
It is no longer considered acceptable to use sedative medications which serve only to prevent the expression of the unwanted behavioural response and can make the phobia worse.
Instead, medications are used either in the short term to help a pet cope with the fearful event or over a longer time frame to assist in the application of behavioural modification techniques.
Short term medications
SILEO® is a prescription-only medicine that comes in the form of a gel which is applied to the gums ½ to 1 hour before the anticipated fearful sound.
It has a rapid onset of action and aims to cause a calming effect without sedation. Each dose lasts between 2 to 3 hours and can be repeated, every 2 hours, up to 5 times.
Anxiolytic and Amnesic Drugs
Benzodiazepines such as diazepam or alprazolam are used to provide short term relief from anxiety and can also have a memory blocking effect. For the treatment of serve anxiety and phobias, benzodiazepines may be prescribed by your vet.
Other medications are available that can be used over a long period. Because these medications can take weeks to months to take effect, they need to be introduced well before the anticipated fearful event.
THE ANXIETY WRAP® can help if your dog is anxious or scared of loud noises, thunderstorms, strangers, travelling or being separated from you.
It is made of lightweight, breathable material which uses maintained pressure and acupressure to relieve stress and lessen fears and anxieties in dogs. It fits over your dog’s head and envelopes your dog lightly but securely.
It gives them a “therapeutic hug.” Most dogs find it easy to move in one of these items, and it is easy to get one on and off.
THE ANXIETY WRAP® has free online support and a treatment program from professional dog trainer and Wrap inventor Susan Sharpe.
She helps you create a positive reinforcement treatment program to correctly help your pet that makes the product much more effective.
There is a strong evidence base for conventional drugs and behavioural therapies which we would recommend.
There is currently no peer-reviewed scientific evidence for the efficacy of herbal medicines or food supplements in the management or treatment of noise phobias and they would not be our first-choice method of treatment for severe noise phobias.
However, the addition of herbal medicines or nutritional components is believed to influence emotional state by several different mechanisms and many owners do believe they help their pets cope in these situations.
NATROCALM contains a comprehensive blend of ingredients at optimum levels that are designed to reduce stress and anxiety in both dogs and cats.
Given 30-60 mins before needed, NatroCalm can be used in combination with prescription medications and has no known side effects.
- Pharmaceutical grade L-tryptophan (serotonin brain building block)
- Ashwagandha (calming and adaptogenic properties)
- L-Theanine (the building block of neurotransmitters)
- Valerian (binds to benzodiazepine sites on the brain)
PET-REMEDY® is a valerian-based blend of essential oils that work alongside the brains natural relaxation pathways to help calm the nerves of anxious or stressed pets. It is available as a plug-in diffuser, calming spray, wipes or atomizer.
ZYLKENE® is a calming supplement that contains a natural product derived from casein, a protein in milk. It is a molecule well known to promote the relaxation of newborns after breastfeeding.
It can be used to help pets cope when facing unusual and unpredictable situations, including a change in their normal environment and during firework displays. It should be started at least three days before the event is expected.
ANXITANE® is a tasty tablet containing L-Theanine, a natural ingredient which helps to maintain calm and reduce anxiety, without causing drowsiness.
Please remember all pets are individuals and what works for one may not work for another. Medications can help your pet cope with the immediate situation, but a long-term solution will require behaviour modification.
If you would like further information, please book a consultation at Manor Farm Vets to discuss what will help you all to have a calm firework season.