PET CARE: Canada Day tips for our pet’s anxiety

Columnist Nicolette Joosting examines different ways to help your pets relax through the celebration

By Nicolette Joosting

While us humans are looking forward to Canada Day and the evening fireworks celebration, the chaos and noise of the day can be extremely stressful for our pets.

However, there are some things we can do to help our animals during our celebrations. These basic principles are the same for all animals, so you can adapt these concepts for dogs, horses and small pets. Assume that all animals have an aversion to loud noises.

Fireworks are incredibly loud for an animals sensitive hearing. The booming noises are startling and at unpredictable intervals. They can be interpreted as a threat, triggering a fear and flight response in our pets. Shelters will see an increase in intakes from pets that have run away, confused and panicked, on celebration days, so make sure your pet is microchipped and registered with BC Pet Registry.

But, for those pets with nowhere to run, animals may feel trapped and panic. To help avoid this, set up a safe room or area in your home.

Dampen outside noises by closing windows, curtains or draping heavy material over part of the enclosure — but make sure they can still look out. My cats have boxes or crates to hide in, with food, water, toys and a pet washroom set up within the space. Their hiding spots are filled with blankets so they can burrow.

On the day of the event, I will close the door, placing a notice on the door requesting that nobody open it to let the cats out. When the fireworks start, I will be in the room with them, since they find that comforting. My cats don’t like white noise, but some pets find the soft sounds of TV or music helpful.

Anxiety vests can also be calming for pets. If you do not have a Thundershirt anxiety jacket, use a tight-fitting t-shirt. I will also set up the pheromone diffusers (Adaptil for dogs, Feliway for cats) in the safe room. Some people like to use supplements containing tryptophan or casein, and products such as Rescue Remedy — although feeding your cats a heavy turkey or chicken meal can work as well.

For dogs, I suggest you also ensure you get a nice long walk in during the calmer parts of the day, so that they are physically tired. Otherwise delay the evening walk until after the chaos and noise has settled. Please never bring your dog to watch the fireworks!

Drugs are a last resort for stressed-out pets, and your veterinarian can advise you on which anti-anxiety meds may be suitable. These medications, used together with the concepts above, are effective in reducing anxiety and stress. Give a dose a few days before the holiday, so you know how your pet will respond to the medication. This gives your veterinarian time to adjust the medication and dosage if needed.

In some cases, these medications need to be given for a much longer period before the event to be effective. Only give these prescribed medications to the pet they were prescribed for – don’t share and don’t give extra doses.

Fireworks and thunderstorm fear is preventable and treatable. If your pet suffers during these events, consult with your veterinarian, who together with an animal behaviourist, will be able to help you treat and train your pets for this.

Let’s enjoy our summer knowing our pets are safe and that we can help with their anxieties and fear!

Nicolette Joosting is a Harrison Hot Springs resident and veterinarian who has recently retired from her Vancouver Feline practice. She keeps herself busy through the Harrison Veterinary Service, her blog and by volunteering in the community.

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