Spooky season is now upon us and although a lot of us love Halloween, unfortunately, our furry friends do not so much. Halloween traditionally consists of dressing up, decorating a house, trick-or-treating, bonfires, and fireworks. While we all understand the traditions and look forward to it each year, in complete contrast, our animals have no understanding at all.
If you try to look at things from their perspective; lots of new noises smells and unfamiliar objects are placed around our homes (some of which are terrifying decorations!). It’s important to start looking after our pet’s needs in early October rather than a few days before Halloween night.
Trick, treat, or TOXIC
As most pet owners know, chocolate is toxic to pets. Make sure that all of your secret stashes are out of sight and out of mind from little paws. While cats might be less likely to eat your treats, they will love crunching, crackling and playing with wrappers. Not only can these small packets be a choking hazard, but they can also cause a blockage if swallowed.
If your pet gets into a stash of chocolate or eats something they shouldn’t of, contact your Vet as soon as possible. Coming into us soon after consumption allows us to induce vomiting to eliminate the toxin/wrapper from the body. The effect of waiting could result in vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly surgical intervention.
Desensitizing can be as simple as not letting pets out on the run-up to Halloween. Lots of extra noise with “practice” fireworks and setting up areas for bonfires can start weeks in advance. Keep them inside as much as you can in the days and especially the week before and the week after October 31st. This will lessen the likelihood of them becoming frightened and escaping and getting lost.
Create a safe space for your pets
Understanding what your pet needs to feel safe is essential. Identify if there is an area in the house they feel safe, this could be on top of a wardrobe in your bedroom for a cat or a crate for a dog. Let this space be an area that your pet can choose to retreat to instead of locking them away. Ideally, this space would have their favorite toys, blankets, and treats. When our small furry friends are frightened, they tend to hide. Why not make your animal a “hidden home”?
Crate training is ideal for times like Halloween. If your dog is not crate-trained this isn’t a problem. As owners you know your pet best, they might like a seat on the sofa or behind it, their own bed, under a counter, or kitchen table. Whatever it is, it is important to note that this is their safe space and then build on it.
Pets are more secure in enclosed spaces with only one point of entrance/exit. The enclosed space makes our small fury friends feel safe. The one entrance to their little hidden home allows them to observe what is going on outside while making them feel as if they are secure. This can be done by placing a blanket over a crate (the blanket also acts as a sound barrier for noise-sensitive animals). It is important to note the entrance or lookout point should not be facing a window or door. This could enhance anxiety in these animals, therefore, causing them to become protective or defensive.
In recent years, a number of new products have come on the market to help our pets to relax at home without the use of sedatives or strong medications. There are a few different complementary products from pheromones, diffusers and sprays, supplement tablets, and anxiety blankets. It is important to note that each pet is individual and while one way may suit your pet, it may not be enough to help another pet’s anxiety.
Start early with desensitizing and complementary products
Supplements with calming effects are now available for cats and dogs. Supplements such as Calmex help promote a more relaxed behavior in animals. This supplement contains essential proteins which aid in the release of serotonin in your brain. This is the “happy chemical.” It is important to note that these supplements take time to work. Plan ahead and start your pet on a supplement sooner rather than later this Halloween.
Pheromone therapy is a supplement that can be used every day for any patient that suffers with separation anxiety and noise sensitivity. Pheromones are natural chemicals released by all species to help the same species communicate. Pheromones are released from a pet in response to certain emotions, for example, a happy dog will produce positive pheromones. Pheromone products work by releasing positive pheromones into your pet’s environment, helping to ease the stress and anxiety of your pet. These products can come in a number of different formats such as diffuses, sprays, wipes, and collars.
Anxiety blankets (thunder shirts)
For dogs with anxiety, the usage of body wraps, relaxing wearables, and anxiety shirts have become more and more common. Have you wrapped yourself in an anxiety blanket, there is almost an instant feeling of security. Thunder shirts use a theory called deep pressure stimulation. The theory behind deep pressure stimulation is pressing repeatedly on specific body parts across the majority of the body, deactivates the sympathetic nervous system, which controls your fight-or-flight reflexes, and aids in the parasympathetic nervous system’s takeover, which sets off a rest and relaxation response.
In order to get the full effect of each product or technique, we would advise starting desensitizing early. Visit one of Highfield’s Veterinary Clinics to speak to a member of our veterinary team about different options for your pet. Some products such as supplements can take a few weeks to build up in the system. We can also recommend an accredited behaviorist to help your pet with its anxiety issues.
This Halloween we want pets to feel safe, owners to have their house in one piece, and kids to enjoy their treats to themselves!
Author: Aoife McGuinness, RVN