Home Features FIRECRACKERS/FIREWORKS CELEBRATIONS AND THEIR EFFECT ON COMPANION ANIMALS
Dear “PET CARE” reader, instead of continuing with “Puppy Ailments” this week, allow us to document some comments on the Misuse of Fireworks, Squibs and Other Explosive Devices, especially as these relate to our pets – not lastly since Diwali and Christmas celebrations are literally right around the corner.
Firstly, let me emphasize what you in all likelihood already know. Dogs (to a lesser degree, cats) hear and smell better than humans. They are much more sensitive to noise.
Secondly, although the focus today is on fireworks, which have become patently associated with celebrations of any kind (from christenings to Christmas), I am including in this topic all types of commercial and man-made, fun-producing explosions and explosive devices as well as other noise makers, such as party horns, whistles and sirens.
Mention was made above of dogs having an extremely developed sense of hearing. The noise that emanates from a firecracker/squib/explosive “toy” not only terrifies your pet, but it also makes the animal temporarily, and, perhaps chronically, mentally unhinged. Moreover, dogs especially, it seems, perceive an explosion as a threat to which they must react. So, they bark loudly and incessantly, and become uncharacteristically aggressive (“fight” response); or they cower and run and hide (“flight” response). Whichever response, it is an expression of fear and anxiety. Some dogs tremble and whine pitifully.
In exceedingly traumatic cases, the extreme responses of dogs (mainly fatal) to the terrifying loudness include:
– jumping off verandahs;
– running away from home;
– impaling themselves on fences surrounding the home;
– hanging themselves with their leashes;
– suffocating themselves in trying to force through kennel bars.
It is not a singular occurrence that a dog would get lost and be found (if it is lucky) miles away from home. Never in the recent decades have I not received calls from good Samaritan rescuers who have lost dogs in their possession and want me to help find the owners. I can never understand how a pet caregiver could spend thousands of dollars, purchasing a puppy, caring for it, allowing it to become a loved member of the family – only to lose the animal wandering away from home, because it seeks to escape the torture of ear-splitting sounds.
I recall, some decades ago, at one New Year’s Eve celebration where a dog broke through a glass door and, lacerated and bleeding, was trying to escape the fireworks noise. That nursing mother entered the Pegasus Hotel Ballroom – spattering blood on the fine clothes of the revelers while creating general mayhem among the celebrants. Luckily, the Manager’s wife – an ardent dog lover – made facilities available, so that I could staunch the bleeding and stitch up the poor animal.
In a nutshell, any sudden and extremely loud noise can cause great turbulence in a household with canine (and feline) companion animals. Dogs have been presented to vets exhibiting, in addition to the symptoms described above,
– paw injuries from digging up of the earth or rough ground surfaces;
– face, neck and body lacerations from over-vigorously trying to break out of the kennel or glass window.
Q: How does one best protect pets from the effects of celebratory instruments of noise?
A: On the days before, during and immediately after the Diwali, Independence Day, Mashramani, and Christmas celebrations, inter-alia, you might wish to reinforce your TLC (Tender Loving Care) towards your pet(s) – lots of petting, speaking and soothing of your ward(s). You might wish to bring the animal(s) into the house. I usually recommend placing an appropriately sized box with a blanket/towel in the bathroom – or even in a secluded cupboard or under the bed. A thick blanket can be placed over the windows to dampen the noise.
Please do not ask your vet to give you strong sedatives (even anesthetics) for the animal. That may be placing the vet not only in an embarrassing situation, to say nothing of possible compromising his/her professionalism. There is a calming natural supplement called Melatonin which might be acquired over the counter. The dosage is 1-4 mg according to the animal’s body weight. Your vet will advise you more exactly. I should mention that, early in my career, I used to prescribe chamomile tea (a naturally sedative herb). Do not use Benadryl. Ask your vet for advice before trying to introduce chemical or natural sedatives that are commercially produced.
Q: Are certain breeds more vulnerable to loud noises.
A: If the noises are loud enough, all breeds are susceptible. My own experience is that German Shepherds Labradors, some Spaniels, and most small, cute breeds like the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Shih Tzu, etc. exhibit intense forms of anxiety.
Please also note that the framers of our laws in their wisdom, and via the advocacy and contributions of the Humane Societies in Guyana, have in their collective wisdom banned the free-for-all import and sale of fireworks and squibs and other forms of explosive toys. Regrettably, those who are supposed to protect and serve do not take too seriously the agony experienced by both pet and caregiver. The perpetrators (both urban and village folk) are not arrested for the overuse and abuse of explosive devices.
It is my view that conscience, caring and discretion must serve as the guiding principles. If a caregiver in your neighbourhood begs you to ease with the explosions, because the noise produced is traumatically affecting the pet animals, how difficult is it to discontinue the explosive devices after a short while.
Let me finally advocate that if your friend explodes a squib near to your pet or ties an active firecracker/sparkler to the tail of an animal, just to see how the poor animal reacts and just for the fun of it, then that persons is no friend. In essence, one has to question that person’s own mental stability.
Dear pet caregiver, enjoy the wonderful companion animal which you have chosen to be a part of your family. Do not create or assist in creating an environment – Diwali or no Diwali, Christmas or no Christmas, etc. – that is inimical to the happiness and well-being of you, your family member(s) and your neighbours.
Happy Diwali, all.