Home Features Scaring pets during festivals and festive seasons
I am convinced that there are now more squibs, firecrackers and miscellaneous explosive devices than ever before, notwithstanding the fact that many of these noise-makers are actually banned or are controlled by restrictive import legislation.
A few weeks ago, during the Divali celebrations, there seemed to be more squibs, firecrackers and fireworks than diyas. Gone are the days when kids produced noise for short periods from carbon, spittle and an Ovaltine tin.
Well, firecracker or squib, or any type of noise-making explosive, all hurt and create distress in animals, especially our socialised companion animals.
Dogs and cats have very sensitive ears and eyes. The noise and sudden repetitively brilliant lights from the explosions disorient and traumatise them. They run indoors, and try to hide in secluded places where they think there is security (bathrooms, under beds, in cupboards, etc). They hurt themselves when they jump of verandahs, run away from home (you can see them wandering around our roads lost and with anxious looks), or are struck down by uncaring motorists and left to die agonising deaths at the side of the road. These are the gruesome scenes after every fireworks-laced celebration.
Year after year, we have pleaded with revellers to reduce/cease the use of fireworks/squibs during holidays and festive seasons. I must admit that it seems now to be an embedded part of our “Kultcha” to enjoy a “good” New Year’s Eve/ Independence Day/Republic Day/Phagwah/Diwali celebration by concomitantly increasing the decibel and light levels of our explosive “toys”. Consequently, we must now turn our attention to the protection of our pets (wards) by applying methodologies which can reduce their anxiety disorders and general suffering.
Firstly, let us look at the symptoms exhibited by our companion animals (as a reaction to explosive devices), which can reveal the level of distress the animals are enduring. Some symptoms can be long-lasting, even so indelibly etched in their brains as to be irreversible. In such cases, we speak of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [We have gotten to know this term from afflicted soldiers returning from wars].
Symptoms of noise/light-related anxiety
[Please note that pets show signs of stress that are different from those of humans].
* Uncontrolled urination (incontinence)/defecation.
* Incessant barking/ howling/whining.
* Heavy breathing (panting).
* Attempting to run away from their normal environments (jumping over fence, running into/out of the house, impaling/damaging themselves on security fences, etc).
* Hiding (running into the bathroom, under the bed, in the wardrobe, etc).
* Inappetence (loss of appetite).
* Drooling (streams of saliva hanging from the mouth).
* Actually trying to cover their ears and eyes.
* Trembling (uncontrollable shaking).
* Tucking tails under their bellies.
* Dilated pupils of the eyes are obvious.
* Exhibition of behavioural patterns not usually associated with your pet (eg. increased water intake; unusual aggression; running away from humans, even their owners; etc).
The treatment should mostly mirror the cause of the symptoms. For example, if the pet is fixated on removing itself from the stressor (noise/light), then we must provide such accommodation. The focus is to calm your pet and reinforce its self-confidence.
1: I mostly advise that during the celebrative silly season, allow your dog to hide in the bathroom when the necessity arises. You can visit him often with treats and general TLC. Let him/her have his/her accustomed toys. Do not be abusive to your dog if he/she defecates/urinates in your bathroom. Give cats a pet cage/box with their favourite blankets and toys.
2: Ensure water is always available.
3: Days prior to the expected increase in decibel/light intensity levels, take your dog for walks on a leash (exercise). In fact, play games (“fetch”, wrestling, etc) with your pet. Reinforce your pet’s confidence.
4: I swear that textbooks advise playing soothing melodies/music to ease the stress. It seems that turning on the TV/radio at low level also works well. (N.B: it has been proven that both dogs and cats have favourite T.V. shows).
Actually, there are apps that create soothing sounds. Video streaming websites also have playlists of calming music or ambient noise.
5: Close the curtains.
6: One wise and caring suggestion is to play, at a lower noise level, recordings of fireworks explosions regularly (prior to the expected fireworks show) to help desensitise your dog to unaccustomed loud noises.
7: Ask your vet for advice. He/she may, after discussion with the pet owner/care-giver, recommend medication to keep your companion animal calm during excessive fireworks’ displays.
In conclusion, let it be clear: In a civilised world, the incessant and unrelenting terrorising of animals, our fellow travellers on this spaceship Earth, should not be considered a joke, giving us some weird form of joy. Subjecting/exposing animals to unnecessary cruelty via long-term use of squibs/ firecrackers/fireworks is one of the great cruelties we can administer to animals.
Please accept our kindest and best wishes for 2023.