Halloween

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Halloween

Pets at Halloween By: Claire Thomas Dip VN RVN                           Animal’s senses especially their hearing, are much more acute than ours, which makes them sensitive to loud noises and bangs in general. Therefore the weeks surrounding Halloween can be particularly stressful for pets and their owners. But there are things you can do to help your pet deal with their anxiety and phobias surrounding fireworks .Here are a few simple Do’s and Don’ts: Do’s: Always keep animals(including rabbits and guinea pigs) indoors when fireworks are being let off Close all windows and doors and leave the radio or TV on to help minimise noises from outside. Lock or block up cat/dog flaps to stop frightened animals escaping Draw curtains/blinds and dim the lights. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification on it in case they run away or go missing. Ideally all pets should be micro chipped; this greatly increases the chances of your pet being returned to you.Let your pet retreat to a place they feel safe, like a corner, under a bed or under the stairs.    Don’ts: Never take your dog to a firework display or take them for a walk while fireworks are being let off, even if they show no anxiety or fear. This may lead to them developing a problem. Never shout at your pet when they are frightened it only adds to their stress and doesn’t help them overcome their fear.  Never make a fuss over your pet when they are fearful as it only encourages the fearful behaviour.Never leave your pet in a car or tie it up outside when fireworks are being let off   Dogs and cats often seek shelter under a bed, behind the sofa or under the stairs. You shouldn’t try and remove them, they are just trying to find somewhere they feel safe and secure. They will feel more relaxed and safe if you can leave them in their “safe place”. Try if possible to be at home when you know there will be fireworks going off. If you are out, and your pet causes destruction, they shouldn’t be chastised as this encourages the behaviour. There are also a variety of products available to help your pet deal with their anxiety surrounding fireworks. Depending on the severity of your pet’s anxiety you can get anything from herbal remedies and pheromones available at good pet stores to anti-anxiety drugs from your vet. Anti-anxiety drugs should only be used as a last resort or for severe cases. Your pet will require a check up by the vet to ensure there are no underlying health problems that would make it unsafe to administer the drugs to your pet. Sedatives should be avoided at all costs. These only cause drowsiness; they relax your pet’s body but not their mind. They don’t allow the animal to move about or retreat to somewhere they feel safe and they do not alleviate your pet’s anxiety or fear.                                      Other products such as “Serene-UM”, “Calm-eze” and “serenity tablets” are a much better place to start. All of these products are herbal and have little or no side effects. They are easy to administer and are available in all good pet stores. Herbal remedies are most effective if you start using them at least 7-10 days before you expect the fireworks to start. They can however be used at short notice as well. Pheromones are also very effective at treating anxiety and noise phobias. Pheromones are biological chemicals released by all mammals; they are picked up by our nose even though we can’t smell them. The dog pheromone works by mimicking the pheromone released by lactating bitches to their pups. This pheromone calms and reassures the young. Research has proven that these same pheromones have a similar effect on adult animals. They are available in plug-in diffusers, sprays and collars. The” D.A.P”(dog appeasing pheromone) is for use in dogs and puppies. “Feliway” is for use in cats and kittens. When cats feel safe in an environment they rub their face against surfaces leaving pheromones behind.  These facial pheromones convey a feeling of calm and well-being. “Feliway” works by mimicking the cat’s facial pheromones and is available in a plug-in and a spray. Both are highly effective and cannot be detected by people. Pheromones are one of the best ways to treat anxiety in your cat or dog.   Small animals Most people forget about small pets when it comes to Halloween. Animals out in the garden are most likely to suffer. Rabbits, Guinea pigs, ferrets and birds outside can be terrified by the sound of fireworks. If possible bring them indoors, the kitchen or even a shed will do. Anywhere where the noise is dulled and they cannot see any displays in the sky. Again putting a TV or radio on to mask the noise also helps. There are some herbal remedies such as “Serene-um” available for rabbits and small pets. Again you should start using these a few days before the fireworks for best results.   Points to remember     1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of sweets is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Sweets containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your vet.   2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.   3. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.   4. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don't put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it .For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.   5. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal's movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behaviour, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.   6. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.   7. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.   8. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't run outside. 9. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be return.