Statement

 

The BSAVA recognise that fearful reactions to loud noises, such as thunder and fireworks are common in dogs and likely to be an issue in many other animals.

The BSAVA recommends that veterinary surgeons advise evidence-based therapies for these fear responses in order that they may improve the welfare of animals under their care.

These would include:

  • Behavioural management, such as provision of an enclosed place to hide.
  • Use of short term medication with anxiolytic and amnesic effects.
  • The use of pheromones as an adjunct may be beneficial in some cases.

While the short term management of fears and phobias may be necessary BSAVA recommends that long term treatments should also be implemented wherever possible, these include:

  • Behavioural therapy, using desensitisation and counter-conditioning.
  • Long term drug therapy, where required.
             

Those without expertise in behavioural medicine should consider referral to a behavioural practitioner.

 

Background Information

Many animals show a fear response to loud noises such as fireworks. Since many animals have more acute hearing that humans this may be a normal response to an abnormally loud sounds or it may become a phobia. These fear responses may be transient, and decrease as the animal gets used to the noise. However, a significant proportion of individuals will become sensitised, in other words the response will increase with repeated exposure. The particular response of an individual animal to noises will vary between individuals. Cats will usually try and escape or hide, whereas dogs may show a range of responses such as barking, seeking owner attention, pace, pant or vocalise. These responses can be severe and animals can be in distress throughout periods of exposure to noises, and for a prolonged period afterwards.

There is accumulating evidence that phobias can be treated successfully using behavioural modification techniques, such as desensitisation and counter-conditioning. These programmes can take some time, especially in cases where the response has been present for a long time, or is particularly severe. Therefore, owners are advised to consult their veterinary surgeon several months before fireworks are anticipated.

Other statements

 

Referral (behaviour)

Further information

How to keep your pets safe (Defra)

Provenance

Pets and Fireworks (RSPCA)

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