Keep Your Pet Safe This New Year's Eve
This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian,
Christmas day has come and gone. Well, THAT was certainly a blur!
You're probably feeling the effects of a self-induced pavlova feast. Or was it the ham? Or the champagne?
While you're recovering from Yuletide festivities and preparing for New Year's Eve celebrations and fireworks, don't forget about how these events can affect your furbabies. For some pets, fireworks and loud social gatherings can be a significant source of anxiety.
Signs of anxiety in dogs include:
- Licking lips
- Shaking or trembling
- Refusing to eat
- Continuously moving around
- Destroying furniture or objects
- Urinating in inappropriate places
Signs of anxiety in cats include:
- Refusing to eat
- Urinating in inappropriate places
- Panting (shown in extreme stress)
Follow our New Year's Eve checklist to make sure you keep them safe and secure this holiday season.
1. Prior To The Fireworks
Update Microchip Details
Of course you should always keep your pet's microchip details up to date, but it is extra important around storm and firework season. If your phone number has changed since your pet was first registered (which may be over a decade ago if you have a senior pet!), you won't be able to be contacted if your pet goes missing. Just in case your pet escapes or becomes lost, you will be reunited with them much quicker if the details are correct.
Not sure how to update your microchip details? You'll need to know what database your pet is registered with, as unfortunately microchip registration in Australia is not centralised. The quickest way to find this out is to contact your vet, who will be able to point you in the right direction.
Exercise and Feeding Before the Fireworks
Take your dog out for exercise, and preferably a reasonably long walk before the fireworks start. Remember to avoid exercising them during extreme heat and take care if you've got a brachycephalic breed (e.g. Pugs, French Bulldogs) who don't tolerate long walks in the warmer weather. Give them something to eat a few hours later, because a well-fed and tired dog is less likely to be anxious.
Ask your vet about options for stress management. Your veterinarian can assess your pet and provide a management plan to help them cope with stressful situations such as fireworks. Some strategies that might be implemented include the use of pheromones, prescription medication and behaviour modification techniques.
Pheromones are unique chemical substances produced by animals and play a role in establishing feelings of wellbeing and emotional stability. Adaptil in dogs, and Feliway in cats, are synthetic versions that are safe, odourless and easy to use. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may be required for pets displaying signs of a phobia such as salivating, shaking, pacing, and destructive behaviour. There are also behaviour modification techniques that can benefit your pet in the long-term by teaching them important skills to cope with stressful situations.
Similar to 'swaddling' a baby in a blanket, ThunderShirts and Anxiety Wraps work by applying gentle pressure to the torso, helping to reduce stress and fear. Available for both dogs and cats, these are safe and very easy to use.
There are also a range of nutraceuticals which may have a calming effect on dogs and cats who experience noise phobia or anxiety. These supplements or treats usually contain L-tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin (the 'happy hormone'). Administer calming aids or prescription medication at least 30 minutes prior to the fireworks. Calming aids such as PAW Blackmore's Complete Calm Chews and Vetalogica Vitarapid Tranquil Treats contain tryptophan, as well as beneficial ingredients such as Chamomile that may help to relax your pet. They're also tasty - your pet will think they're just getting a simple treat!
Dr. Kim explains how to reduce noise phobia in dogs. See more helpful pet tip videos like this on Pet Circle's Youtube Channel.
2. During The Main Event
Celebrate At Home
If possible, stay at home so you can directly supervise your pet. Fearful animals are much more likely to settle if their pet parent is close by. Never tether them to a lead as this can result in serious injuries if they get a fright and try to escape. Ideally, bring them indoors and into a safe haven which should be a quiet, darkened room where they can't injure themselves. Deck this area out with a cosy bed and their favourite toys. Some pets also have a special spot they like to go to where they feel safe, and you can allow them to do so as long as it's safe.
It may be tempting to bust out some loud 90's pop music - it is New Years after all, and who doesn't love the Spice Girls! But within your pet's safe haven, consider playing some calming meditation music, Enya, or similiar music in an effort to distract your pet from the bangs and crackles happening outside.
Remember to act calmly and avoid fussing over your pet too much. Although it feels natural to reassure your pet with praise and attention, it can actually positively reinforce their fearful behaviour. If possible, try and engage them in normal activities such as playing, or ignore them altogether. It's also important to reward your pet for displaying calm behaviour and to never punish them as this will only heighten their fear.
3. After It's All Over
Not The Snags!
Our drooly friends might try all the tricks to get their paws on one of those left over snags, but it's not worth the risk if it means a trip to the veterinary clinic. Some popular festive foods that should be kept well out of reach of your furry friend include ham and fatty meats, chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, sultanas, mango seeds, onion and garlic. Treat them the right way with some drool-worthy (AND healthy) treats designed just for them.
Make sure you leave plenty of fresh water out for your pets before you hit the hay. Animals who are stressed and have been panting and pacing will also require more water than usual. Plus, New Year's Day is during the hottest time of the year so it's extra important to ensure they're kept hydrated. Consider a pet water fountain, some of which can hold over 2L of water at a time. Cats and dogs also naturally prefer to drink from running water, and most contain a filter to ensure that the water always stays clean and fresh. There are also automated feeders which means you wont have to do a thing! With the capability to schedule up to four separate meals, your pet doesn't need to wake you up to get their morning brekky!
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