Now we are well into the month of October, with the weather colder and days shorter, we can truly say it is Autumn!! With Autumn comes Halloween and Fireworks season, so we thought we’d put together a list of top tips to help combat this time of year…
- Trick-or-treaters – make sure your dog is kept back from the door when opening it to young visitors, as children can get very nervous and upset if bombarded by excited animals! While some animals may be more than keen to say hello, many dogs and cats can become stressed by multiple knocks on the door. With such animals, make sure they have a safe place to hide or put them in a separate, quiet room.
- Toxicities – like at Easter, make sure to keep chocolate and sweets out of the reach of animals! Theobromine in chocolate and Xylitol in sweets are poisonous to dogs and cats even in small quantities.
- Pumpkins – Although not poisonous, pumpkins can cause an upset stomach if fed in large quantities, so make sure to only feed in moderation and keep the innards away from hungry eyes!
- Costumes – Some dogs love to wear costumes, jumpers and coats, however others get very stressed. Make sure if you are putting your dog or cat in a costume that they are always supervised as, especially when loose fitting, limbs can get stuck in leg holes and cause serious injuries.
- Noise phobias – Many dogs get very stressed by the sound of fireworks, and it can be difficult to train them out of the habit. The Dogs Trust has a series of resources online at https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets – their ‘sounds scary’ programme helps to desensitise dogs to loud bangs and is very effective. Cats can be desensitised in a similar way.
- Hiding place – Make sure that if your animal is scared of fireworks, they have a safe place to hide should they become anxious. A crate is very effective, just make sure that it has a towel or blanket over the top of it so that your pet feels in an enclosed, safe place. Cats feel safe in high places, so make sure there is a sort of ‘den’ accessible for them on top of shelves or furniture.
- Other tips
- Keep cats indoors during firework evenings to ensure they are safe.
- Distract your animal with toys and chews while fireworks are going off.
- Don’t shout at your pet if they react to the fireworks – either sit close to them and stroke them if they prefer physical contact, or if they are better by themselves, allow them to find their safe place and just check on them regularly.
- Close your curtains at home and play music/put on the tv to quieten the noise from fireworks.
- Nutraceuticals – There are many natural supplements effective in reducing anxiety in dogs and cats. We stock ‘Nutracalm’ and ‘Zyklene’. Nutracalm contains the building blocks of the ‘happy’ hormones seratonin and dopamine, and Zyklene contains a natural ingredient derived from casein, a molecule in milk well known to promote the relaxation of new-borns after breastfeeding. We also stock ‘Adaptil’ and ‘Feliway’ plug-in diffusers and sprays – the pheromones contained within these are slowly released into an animal’s environment to help calm them.
Exercise and diet
- Keep your animals active indoors – with colder and damper weather, dog walks tend to be shorter and cats are not so keen to go outside and explore. If this is the case, keep your dog and cat active at home by playing with them – tug toys, cat wands and puzzle games can keep pets amused and active for hours! This will ensure that they do not put on unwanted weight over the autumn and winter months, which (especially in older dogs) can exacerbate conditions such as arthritis.
- Diet – If your dog or cat is not spending so much time outdoors, reduce their caloric intake to match the reduction in activity. Around a 10% reduction is enough to combat weight gain over winter, however this will vary depending on your pet’s breed, body condition score etc, so if you need advice please don’t hesitate to ask one of our vets or nurses.
- Walks – when walking dogs, make sure to wear reflective clothing during the darker hours or in foggy weather, especially if near a road. Your pet may also benefit from wearing a reflective coat or collar in these conditions to prevent accidents. Smaller, thin coated dogs may be more willing to go out if wearing a winter jacket, especially if they are underweight, elderly, or if it is raining.
- Acorns and conkers – both acorns and conkers are poisonous to dogs if eaten in large enough quantities. Acorns are bitter tasting due to the tannins contained within them, and so dogs tend not to chew them more than once!! Conkers do not though, and so consumption can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and even neurological problems. However, one of the major risks of a dog eating conkers is an intestinal blockage, caused if a conker is not chewed before being swallowed!! An intestinal blockage can lead to surgical removal being required!
- Provide shelter – if you have a pet who spends the majority of their time outside, for example an outdoor cat or rabbit, please make sure they have enough shelter from the wind and rain that the latter half of the year brings. Rabbits need good insulation in their hutches, or to be brought into an outside room (such as a garage or shed) during autumn and winter. If the weather is particularly bad, housing them indoors is advised.
- Microchips – make sure your pet’s microchip details are up to date so they can be reunited with you should they stray. This can cost a small amount of money (normally around £15), however cats without collars and dogs who may not always wear their collars are only identifiable by microchip, and if details are not correct then it is much less likely an owner will be reached.
- Antifreeze – antifreeze is sweet tasting to animals, particularly cats, however it is very poisonous, even in small doses. The ingredient ethylene glycol contained in it can cause serious kidney and brain damage. Keep antifreeze in a cupboard with the lid tightly closed, and clean up any spills immediately.
We hope these tips help to keep your pet safe and happy this Autumn. If you have any concerns however, or would just like further advice, please contact The Village Veterinary Surgery on 01707 274828 or Marshalswick Veterinary Surgery on 01727 226475.