With Bonfire Night upon us, it’s a key time for you as a pet owner to ensure you’re aware of the steps you can take to minimise the impact of the unexpected and deafening bangs that your dog will fear. IAMS Veterinary Expert Kellie Ceccarelli shares her advice for supporting dogs through what can be a traumatic time.
As you spend a lot of time with your dog you’ll notice if they start acting out of character for example repeatedly trying to hide or escape, pacing and acting restless, grooming excessively, freezing, yawning, licking lips, drooling or refusing to eat. Although this can be distressing to watch, there are ways you can help to manage the situation and ensure your dog remains as calm as possible during Bonfire Night.
Keep your canine company
Contact your local council to find out when your area is likely to have fireworks and try to ensure someone is available to keep your dog company during the planned display. Long firm massage strokes may help to calm an anxious dog and some will feel comforted by their owners holding them firmly and leaning into them although you should only do this with dogs who approach you and release them if they struggle.
Remove noise triggers
Consider teaching your dog, in a positive way, to wear ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones, such as Mutt Muffs. If possible, make up a bed for your dog in a sound insulated area of your home, such as a kitchen with acoustic tiles. In some cases, even playing competing or white noise from the TV or radio can be helpful, although take care not to play it so loud that the background noise itself escalates the problem.
Keep doors and windows closed
Make sure all blinds, shutters, and curtains are shut during fireworks displays to black out the flashing lights and leave the lights on inside so that fireworks are less apparent.
Create a safe haven
Make up a nest for your dog with their favourite blanket, cushion and one or two familiar toys, where they can escape to during a fireworks event if needs be. Feed your dog there, if they are more comfortable, with a 100% complete and balanced diet like IAMS Proactive Health which is available in tasty chicken for puppy, adult and senior dogs. Alternatively, leave out some healthy treats, such as IAMS Minis. Made without gluten, packed with vitamins, and low in fat, IAMS Minis are available in three mouthwatering flavours including lamb with cranberry, beef with apple and chicken with carrots, and are the perfect guilt-free treat for your pet to enjoy as a reward for calm behaviour.
Try an anxiety wrap
While there is no scientific evidence to show an anxiety wrap reduces fear in a firework sensitive dog, it may nevertheless offer your dog some comfort if they are feeling nervous. However, make sure you stay with your pet whilst wearing it to ensure they don’t over heat.
By following the above steps, you can help to ease symptoms of fear in your dog allowing you to once again enjoy an active lifestyle together once firework season has passed. However, if you notice that your dog reacts with fear to the sound of fireworks, it’s important to visit the vet for a complete physical check to ensure they are not suffering from other underlying anxiety disorders, which may severely compromise their health and happiness in the long term.
For more information about IAMS please visit their website.