WITH bonfire night fast approaching, distress and risk of injury rockets for our furry friends.
The British Veterinary Association has found that in the past year, one in 14 vets has helped animals with firework-related injuries.
Dealing with loud bangs, flashing lights and unusual smells can lead our pets into situations where they become terrified and end up seriously hurting themselves.
Distress is also a big issue for dogs and cats. Sainsbury’s has removed fireworks from its shelves after 300,000 people signed a petition to ban the public sale of them to protect animals and children.
Sean McCormack, head vet at dog-food company Tails.com, said it is common for pups to be scared of fireworks because they are not familiar with them.
Making sure they feel secure while big bangs are going off is key. Sean said: “With weeks to go before bonfire night, now is the time to start working with your pet to help them feel safe.
“If you’re struggling to keep your them calm, there are some tips to try while you are at home.
“Use CDs and YouTube videos to accustom your dog to noises and slowly start to increase the volume.
“Go at a pace your dog is comfortable with. If they become startled, reduce the frequency and build it back up again.
“Once they become comfortable, replay specific sounds that cause them to become distressed.
“Practise this in various rooms of your house and keep the door open in case your pet gets distressed and wants to leave. Your dog will sense if you are nervous and it will have a knock-on effect, so try to stay calm.
When they show fearful behaviour, try not to cuddle them or reassure them as this reinforces their behaviour.”
Sean said turning the volume up on the TV or radio and blacking out windows can help distract animals from loud noises outside.
He added: “Make sure they are inside and build a safe place for them behind the sofa or underneath a table with a box, rug, or crate.
"Take them out for a walk when it’s light to help reduce anxiety and burn off energy. In extreme cases, there are natural calming tablets you can get from the vet to help speed up the process.
But the earlier you start, the better. If you are going to set off fireworks, make sure your pets are kept inside to reduce the possibility of injuries.
"Every dog is different and what might work for one might not work for another. Your local vet will be happy to help if you are still worried.”
Star of the week
AN inoperable spine tumour left Winston the Staffie needing a set of wheels to get around in.
Owner Rachel Wettner, 43, from Sudbury, Suffolk, first noticed he was walking as if he was tipsy at the age of eight, two years ago.
Vets said that it was impossible to remove the tumour and Winston lost the use of his back legs.
He was lent his first “wheelchair”, which inspired Rachel to start a fundraising group to give other dogs the chance to move around again.
The group has more than 1,700 members and has funded 56 chairs. Rachel said: “Winston is still a happy boy in his wheelchair.
He loves doing nearly everything he did before.” Search “Winstons Wheels Fund Raiser” on Facebook.
Sean McCormack, head vet at the tailored food firm tails.com
KELLY LEWIS, from Edinburgh, wants to adopt a friendly stray cat. She said: “We have a stray that keeps wandering into our home.
“I feed her most days and I’ve asked around the neighbourhood and looked for posters and appeals online to see if anyone is looking for her.
"It feels like she has chosen us and I would love to take her in. What is the procedure? I was thinking of taking her to the vets to see if she is chipped and if not, maybe we could keep her?”
Sean says: “She’s most likely owned and just doing the rounds of the neighbourhood for seconds on dinner.
“Feeding seems like the right thing to do when this happens but can be an issue with cats becoming overweight, certain foods being unsuitable or interfering with medication.
“ So I would advise bringing her to the vets to be checked for a chip, or placing a paper collar around her neck with your phone number on it asking her owners (or other local feeders) to contact you.
“Unfortunately, cats aren’t currently required by law to be microchipped, so even if there’s no chip it doesn’t mean she’s not owned.
“Keeping her” in that case could also be taking her from a very caring family who love her.”
Jean Dudley, 78, of Plymouth, has concerns about her dog’s claws. She said: “They seem to be looking a bit long. I walk him a lot on grass. Should I worry about it?”
Sean says: “It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s claws, including the dew claw nail which is located on the inside of the leg as that can become ingrown and damage the skin.
“If your dog doesn’t do a lot of walking on hard surfaces, and the claws are untrimmed, it can become uncomfortable for your dog to walk, just as in humans when toenails get too long. The more often you do them, the easier it becomes.
“But be careful not to trim too much, as it can be very painful. If in doubt, your veterinary practice can help.”
Win a calming vest
ARE you looking for a way to keep your dog settled this bonfire night?
We have TEN Comfort Zone calming vests up for grabs to help your pet in a stressful situation.
They make dogs feel more secure by acting like a “hug”. For details see comfortzone.com.
Send an email marked CALMING VEST with preferred size to: email@example.com.
T&Cs apply: click here to view.
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