Fireworks and your Dog

It’s getting to that time of year again where we can expect to start experiencing the effects of fireworks on our dogs.

During the global pandemic, some owners may have used the opportunity of spending more time with their dog to start a desensitisation programme months ago. Unfortunately this is unlikely to be in the forefront of your mind 3-6 months ago when desensitisation should have started.

Around 45% of dogs are scared of fireworks so I hope you can get some useful advice from this article to help your pet have a better experience this year.

More at home displays?

There could be more at-home displays this year with people avoiding going to busy, organised events. This can become trickier to predict regarding timing and locality. Try reaching out to your neighbours and villagers to ask if they can let you know if they are having a display, and when to expect it to start and finish so you can be more prepared.

The Basics

Draw the curtains, close doors and windows and put the TV on louder than usual. Reggae and Classical music helps calm dogs down so set Alexa on with a playlist for the evening. Dogs look to you for your reaction to a potential risk. Try to not react and fuss around too much as this can worry a dog further. Be there to provide support and reassurance but be a calming influence.

Create a safe space

Dogs like to hide when feeling anxious. Make them an area of their own by covering over a dog crate, or draping a blanket between two sofas or under a table. A comfortable, dark space where they can choose to spend time. Set this up a few days before the expected event to get them used to it and encourage them to use it by giving a chew treat in there. It’s likely they will want to be close to you so preferably in the same room as you.

If you shut a dog into a cage or a room when they are feeling stressed they can hurt themselves if they panic and try to get out. Some dogs take themselves off and hide under the bed for example, if this is the case then leave them there if they feel safer.

Day time walks and escape routes

There is always an increase in lost dogs at fireworks time. Even the best trained dog can bolt when scared. Exercising your dog well during the day will help them settle better in the evening. Make sure microchip details are up to date and ensure your house and garden is secure to avoid a stressed dog escaping. Consider keeping them on a lead in the garden if you need to toilet them after dark. Otherwise avoid outside time after dark during the firework period.

Calming supplements, pheromones and medication

There is a variety of over the counter supplements available to help reduce stress and anxiety. Some work best when started months to weeks before the event, some can be given days and hours before. These can have a good effect, depending on the severity of the behavior, but it may be a case of trial and error to see what works best for your dog. If you know your dog will need the help of stronger short term medication for noise phobia, then contact your Vets in good time for a Veterinary prescription.

Enrichment and chew toys

Dogs can often loose their appetite when stressed so consider feeding them earlier in the day. Providing tasty long lasting chews and treats can be a great was to distract a stressed dog. For example snuffle mats, activity feeders, filled Kongs or a safe chew can keep their minds off the noises.

Now may be the time to introduce a new exciting toy or play their favourite indoor game.

Noise phobias are treatable, but it takes time and commitment. Start planning for next year as soon as you can. A noise desensitisation programme can be used to gradually expose your dog to the sounds at a very low level while having positive experiences of food, praise etc. This is a gradual counter-conditioning process to help them accept the sounds long term. To get help with this contact a qualified animal behaviourist.

Free Desensitisation Programe click here

Rebecca Wilkinson RVN NCert (AnBeh)

Why Veterinary Acupuncture? – By Jody Lam

Hear what our resident Acupuncture Vet Jody Lam has to say about her treatments

Acupuncture is an amazing treatment method that was developed centuries ago in the Far East.  It involves placing very small needles in very specific locations throughout the body.  The needles are very fine and placement of them is generally painless.  These needles stimulate the nervous system, having profound effects on many body systems.  Also, in the area local to the needles, the body responds by releasing chemical messengers that relieve pain and promote healing.

What conditions can be treated with acupuncture?

Because of the unique way that acupuncture works, it can be beneficial for many conditions, both short and long-term.

The majority of my patients are having acupuncture treatment for chronic joint diseases, such as (osteo)arthritis.  Acupuncture  can really benefit these patients in several ways.  The treatment can help to reduce pain (either alongside, or instead of, pain medication), it also reduces the muscle spasm that often occurs as part of the body’s response to lameness/limping/stiffness. Muscle spasm reduces the body’s ability to shift weight between the limbs, and so makes it harder for the pet to cope with the joint pain; relaxing these muscles can make a huge difference to them.  Acupuncture works really well alongside other treatments such as hydrotherapy and laser, as they all provide benefits in different ways that complement each other.  Because arthritis is a progressive disease we often need to use many approaches to keep your pet comfortable as their joints worsen over time.

As the nervous system is involved in all aspects of physical well-being, acupuncture can be of benefit for most health conditions.  Other problems in pets that I have treated successfully with acupuncture include: urinary incontinence, spinal problems, lick granulomas, Horner’s syndrome and feline hyperaesthesia.

All patients have a full clinical examination at the start of their treatment and I review the medical history from their usual vet.  With ongoing cases I can work alongside your regular vet, continuing to keep in touch with them whenever possible to ensure the best care.

Are there any patients who acupuncture cannot help?

A small proportion of humans and animals do not respond to acupuncture treatment and so if there is no benefit seen after the first 4 sessions then it may be that they do not respond.  Some conditions take longer for a response than others.

Most of my patients are dogs, but I also treat several cats and the occasional well-behaved horse! Rabbits also benefit from acupuncture.

Will my pet enjoy the treatment?

The majority of my patients really enjoy their sessions, they rush over to greet me and are very settled throughout.  It can be hard to know what to expect which is why I have a video recording of a treatment on my website  The pet needs to be fairly still for the needle placement but this can usually be achieved with the help of treats when necessary! Once the needles are in place the aim is to leave them in for around 15 minutes, but the pet does not need to lay still for that time.  During this time the body releases endorphins which are chemical messengers that promote relaxation, so often the patient lies down or is more settled during this phase.  Then the needles are removed.

Are there any side effects?

Rarely are side effects experienced.  Some animals are a little stiff for the first day or two after a treatment (more common in the early stages).  A tiny proportion is patients experience a reaction where this persists, but this reaction can be easily reversed by placing a single needle. Spinal cases and animals that have been in pain for some time are the most likely to have some side effects in the early stages of their treatment.

How often is treatment required?

The initial course is weekly sessions, usually for 4 treatments.  After this it is tailored to the patient and their condition; most arthritic pets then move to fortnightly treatments on an ongoing basis.  If the acupuncture is to promote healing or recovery then it can end once the healing/recovery is complete, for example after surgery or non-healing wounds.

Will my insurance company cover the cost?

Many insurers will cover acupuncture treatment and so will reimburse your costs.  It is worth contacting them to find out in advance.

New Lameness Evaluation Service

New for 2021 we now have a new piece of kit that allows us to collect accurate data to evaluate lameness and weight bearing of our patients.

Utilising the Companion Stance Analyser in our clinic has taken our lameness evaluations to the next level.  By providing objective measurements, we will be able to see how a patient is shifting his or her weight in order to determine which limb, or limbs, are affected.  This data allows you to better communicate to the pet owner what the next step is going to be for the pet.

This can be used as a one off reading for data only purposes to communicate to the Vet, or integrated into the treatment plan to allow to adapt treatments as necessary and keep an eye on progress.

It can also be used for dogs not under our care, breeders, show dogs, working dogs etc to monitor longer term injuries to help manage the condition.

No Veterinary Referral is required for this service only. (cost applies)


Veterinary Acupuncture now on site

We are pleased to have the fantastic Jody Lam MA, Vet MB, MRCVS on board with us one day a week offering Acupuncture.

Veterinary acupuncture has evolved from the ancient art of placing needles into particular locations on the body in order to alleviate pain, improve recovery rates and increase resistance to disease. It has been practiced by the Chinese and other Eastern cultures for thousands of years and may be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses in both people and animals.

Pain is the most common indication for acupuncture, particularly chronic pain such as arthritis, but it can be very useful for muscular strains and spinal problems too.

This maybe a service offered by your own vet, but if not give Jody a call or a message. She is currently working from Operation K9 one day a week.

Check out Jody’s page here;

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