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Podcast #15: Facing the fireworks: how to help your anxious pet on bonfire night

Written by Napo HQ
3rd Nov 2022
23 mins listen
In this week’s episode of The Pet Perspective, we're taking a deep-dive into many pet’s worst nightmare, bonfire night, and how to help anxious animals with noise phobias. (Including a few things to do at short notice to help keep your pet calm.)
This week we’re joined by veterinary behaviourist
Dr Julie Ashton
, owner of Life on Four Legs behaviour consultation service. She shares her expertise on how to help your dog or cat cope with the stress of bonfire night, and which gadgets and supplements are good (or bogus) when it comes to calming your pet.
For more tips on how to keep your pet calm, check out this blog post.

This episode of The Pet Perspective covers:

  • How to recognise signs of stress in cats and dogs and the traffic light system of stress
  • The role pain can play in fear and phobias
  • What to do in the days before bonfire night to help settle your pets
  • Recognising when to get expert help, and who to approach.
  • Why some dogs really like 90s RnB

Episode highlights

Dr Julie Ashton - 04:41

“We tend to look far too late about doing some training when actually the dog is already having a panic, basically. And so they can’t learn anything, their brain is too stressed in those scenarios.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 05:22

“Most veterinary behaviourists will see far more dogs than we do cats. And that isn’t actually because dogs are more stressed or more fearful or more anxious. But I think we don’t tend to pick up very much that the cats are really worried.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 08:26

“So if your dog or your cat has previously been OK with fireworks, but now suddenly has developed a fear or a phobia which hasn't been there before, then definitely bring them to the vet for a check up. Because we know that pain is often very closely associated with noise phobias.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 09:26

“We know that pain increases the perception of anxiety, and anxiety increases the perception of pain. So you can almost get these wind ups where what is actually on the surface quite a mild pain, is starting to really affect how the dog is feeling and also how they are reacting to things like fireworks."

Dr Julie Ashton - 09:49

“So for me, your normal GP vet is a great place to start. Definitely if it’s a new thing, or you’re worried and it's been there but it's a lot worse now, definitely don’t assume that that’s just normal, that all dogs are like that with fireworks. Always get them checked out at the vets.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 13:54

“If the behaviour is motivated by fear or anxiety, doing something nice to them when they’re worried is just going to make them feel better.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 14:57

“Take a deep breath, a couple of long slow strokes, and if you can get them to do something on their own like a positive other behaviour, that’s better. So if you can get them to lie down and chew something, and you just help them to get to that point, that’s better.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 15:54

“Dogs are incredibly good at reading their body language, breathing really rapidly. The dogs are like, what's wrong with Mum or dad? You know, something bad is happening here. So you just staying nice and calm and relaxed often really helps them.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 21:00

“If your dog your pet is panicking, you need to go into the vet. It's not an over the counter type supplement. Maybe the dog is a little bit worried, it might be worth trialling. But most of those things really, you should start in a couple of days beforehand if you can.”

Dr Julie Ashton - 22:41

“So talk to your vet, see what for your pet is the most appropriate. But I definitely would seek help early. So these things we've talked about are very general, but what works for one dog might not be what works for your dog or cat. So kind of having a specific plan for your pet is really important so that you can help them next year.”

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