Dealing with a fear of fireworks
A fear of fireworks is a very common problem for cats and dogs. However, if you start behavioural therapy early enough, it is easy to deal with. There are also various products available to soothe animals and reduce their fear. This article will discuss both methods.
Fear of loud noises
Fear and therefore stress caused by fireworks can occur in all kinds of animals in mild and severe forms. The fear of loud noises is a natural fear that is directly linked to survival instinct. Practically every animal will react when hearing a loud noise, though some animals are more sensitive than others. Animals can develop a severe fear of loud noises when they have had bad experiences or when they have been frightened repeatedly. The fear and panic that they experience is often considerable.
Dealing with a fear of fireworks
The good news is that there are various ways to deal with a fear of fireworks or to prevent it, if you start early enough. The latter is essential, because most methods take time to become effective. Changing a pet’s behaviour often takes a lot of time and patience, and sometimes you will need extra support. This support may come in the form of a qualified behavioural therapist, noise desensitisation, regular medication or the use of calming products in the form of a ThunderShirt, a diffuser or supplements. We will briefly discuss a few methods here.
It has been proven that desensitising animals from noises (sound desensitisation) is the best method for changing your pet’s reaction to stressful noises. This works by exposing your pet to scary noises in his home environment while distracting him with something fun, such as playing with his favourite toy or eating a bone. This turns the negative association that your pet has with the noises into a positive association.
The most common method is a firework CD for dogs and cats with loud noises that is introduced for short periods and at a low volume to start with. The length and volume are gradually increased when your pet responds well to the therapy. In dogs and cats that already show anxiety and stress under normal circumstances, support from medication (such as Clomicalm, available from your veterinarian) can help during training. As you will understand, this process takes time. That is why behavioural therapists recommend starting fireworks training about two months prior to Bonfire Night or New Year’s Eve, using the CD.
It is recommended to see a behavioural therapist should your dog have an extreme fear of fireworks. Together, you will be able to set up a suitable training schedule.
Feliway for cats
Feliway is a synthetic copy of a cat’s facial pheromone. This pheromone is used by cats to mark their territory as safe. By replicating the cat’s natural facial pheromones, Feliway gives cats a safe feeling in their home environment. This allows the pheromones to be used to make cats feel at ease and to comfort them when they are confronted with things such as fireworks. You can use both the Feliway Spray and the Feliway diffuser for this. Use the diffuser at least 1-2 weeks prior to the event for an optimal result.
Adaptil (D.A.P.) pheromones for dogs
Adaptil, an analogue of the natural pheromone produced by dogs, has the same effect as the substance that is secreted by mother dogs. The soothing effect makes the animal feel more at ease. Adaptil is effective without side effects and easy to use. Because it does not have a sedative effect, the pet remain completely alert. Dogs will play with their owners as usual and will not become drowsy or sleepy. Adaptil is a product with a remarkable effectiveness in various forms of unwanted behaviour, including fear of fireworks. The product is available as Adaptil diffuser, Adaptil Spray and Adaptil Collar. Use the diffuser at least 1-2 weeks prior to the event for an optimal result.
Calming food supplements
Research has shown that certain nutrients have a soothing and/or positive effect on an animal’s mood. By adding these substances into the food, the symptoms of stress in animals can be reduced considerably. The food supplements have no side effects, such as drowsiness or memory loss. If you want these products to be effective, it is important that you start using them about 4 weeks before the event. Many products must be given for at least 4 consecutive weeks.
The tasty Adaptil tablets provide a quick and temporary relaxing effect in stressful situations such as fireworks, travel or thunderstorms. In contrast to other Adaptil products, the Adaptil tablets are not based on pheromones. The tablets contain a combination of natural amino acids, GABA and Vitamin B complex. Many scientific and clinical studies have proven the positive effect of the natural active substances on the reduction of fear. The tablets should be given two hours before the event.
The natural, calming food supplement Telizen for cats and dogs has the active component L-Theanine (an amino acid), which is also contained in green tea. Telizen reduces the behaviour that is associated with fear and tension, and helps the animal to relax. It is recommended that you give the product for at least 2 months for the best results.
Zylkene is a natural, hypoallergenic food supplement containing a protein (alpha-casozepine), which is also in mother’s milk. This product can help dogs, cats and horses in stressful situations (such as fear of fireworks). In animals with a fear of fireworks, it is advised that you start using Zylkène at least 1 week before the event.
Calmeze is a fast-acting, liquid food supplement containing L-Tryptophan and L-Theanine as the active substances.
AmiQure Stress Dog or Cat is a food supplement based on high-quality natural ingredients. The product makes cats and dogs less sensitive, without making them drowsy.
Bach Rescue Remedy
Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets are a 100% natural remedy that offer quick relief in stressful situations. The Bach Rescue drops for pets can be used straight away for anxiety or stressful situations. Bach Rescue Remedy Pets – Alcohol Free like other products from Bach Rescue, contain the five flower remedies of the Original Bach Flower formula.
Royal Canin Calm Diet
Instead of calming food supplements, Royal Canin has composed a complete diet, which contains these calming substances. This food can also play a role in combating the physical symptoms resulting from stress. Royal Canin Calm contains the milk protein alpha-casozepine. This has a calming effect that is comparable to the effect of valium, but without the side effects of this medication, such as addiction and drowsiness. In addition, it contains added L-Tryptophan, which has a positive effect on certain moods such as restlessness and fear, appetite and sleeping behaviour.
[ThunderShirt works by applying pressure to the dog’s body. This pressure calms the dog. This product is often effective from the first use, but some dogs need time to get used to wearing the ThunderShirt. The shirt exerts gentle, constant pressure, which has a calming effect on most dogs when they are anxious, scared or hyperactive. Experts believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system. Relieving fear and soothing by using pressure has been common practice for many years, for example when swaddling infants. The ThunderShirt is relatively new to the market, but is thought to be very effective.
The natural method of Animal Health
This is a combination of several products, including: Groene Os Rest Compositum for Dogs and Cats, Puur Nervo for Horses, supplemented in acute cases by Bach Rescue Drops or Bach Rescue Spray.
If your pet’s fear of fireworks, and the resulting stress, is severe, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian. He/She can advise you on the method that is most likely to succeed for your animal, or whether it is more sensible to used other medication alongside it, such as Xanax (Alprazolam).
Do you want more information on the products described above? Feel free to search the site or ask our veterinarian a question.