People dress their pets up at Halloween: this can be fun, but is it right? On Ireland AM this week, we looked at some of the more functional ways to dress pets up, and we looked at ways that Halloween can be made less stressful for pets.
Functional Halloween clothing for pets
- Charlie, a terrier dressed up as a skeleton, held by Annette Outfit costs €14.99
- Kiko, wearing a fleece jersey, held by Ella, who was holding at Thundershirt which cost €30
- Speedy, a wire haired terrier wearing an orange spider jersey (€12.99) with a reflective blue cape held by Mary plus €9.99 for reflective cape
- Finzi, wearing a Karmawrap tight fitting shirt (€35) plus a Hi Viz jacket over it (€35). She had a flashing Blinky around her neck (€2.99)
- Adaptil plug in pheromone diffuser to place in a dog’s den (€42.99)
- Feliway plug in pheromone diffuser for cats (€39.90)
- Calmeze tablets (€6.99) simple nutritional supplement that may help to calm dogs. If a dog gets really upset, may need to talk to your vet in advance about getting stronger sedatives for the night of Halloween
- We also had a “Beastly Ball” which is a Halloween themed bouncy ball which flashes when bounced – it’s a good seasonal toy for a pet.
All of the above items are available from Maxizoo
A large number of pet dogs suffer from a serious type of noise phobia that’s brought on by the sound of fireworks. Dogs have hearing that’s far more sensitive than our own, so the bang and squeal of a firework must sound far louder than it does to ourselves. And dogs don’t understand Halloween in the same way as we do: they don’t know what the sudden loud noises are all about. As far as they are concerned, it could be the beginning of the end of the world. It’s no wonder that so many dogs panic when they hear fireworks. Every year I hear stories about dogs getting hysterically upset, trying to clamber into kitchen cupboards, running around the house howling or dashing up and down stairs in a state of distress.
The best approach is to try to pre-empt this type of crisis by making preparations in advance. Make sure that pets have a safe, secure den to hide in. A good example would be a central heating boiler room: it’s warm and comfortable, and the ongoing hum of the boiler helps to drown out the sound of fireworks. An alternative would be a cupboard under the stairs, or anywhere else that’s reasonably sound proofed. A loud radio should be left on, and plenty of bedding should be made available for a nervous dog to burrow into. Old unwashed items of clothing, such as sweaters or T-shirts, can help to create a reassuring sense that the pet’s human family is nearby.
To help create a soothing atmosphere in the den, calming pheromones should be used. These are odourless vapours that have a calming effect on animals.
Plug-in dog pheromone vaporisers (the brand name is “Adaptil”) are ideal: these are like room de-odorisers, but instead of a pleasant scent, they produce a pheromone vapour that makes dogs feel less stressed. It’s also possible to purchase a pheromone impregnated “Adaptil” collar which allows a dog to carry around its own source of calmness: one collar lasts for a month. These pheromones are not cheap, but if a distressed pet can be kept calm and comfortable, it’s worth it. In any case, the price of a couple of months of pheromone use is far less than the cost of repairing a home with scratched doors, chewed carpets and bitten skirting boards.
Owners also need to reflect on the way that they interact with their pets when fireworks are going off. If you get agitated and make a fuss of a frightened dog, this can send a message that “you get lots of attention by getting frightened”. Some dogs then seem to learn that this can be a novel way of getting affection and treats from an owner, and the problem can then occur with increasing frequency. It’s better to carry on with normal activities around a frightened dog, and instead to give plenty of affection once the pet has calmed down and is behaving normally. The aim is to teach the animal that “it’s good to be calm”.
Some pets get so agitated that sedative medication from your local vet may be needed, but this is not a cure-all: it’s really just for emergencies. The best long term answer is to use sound recordings of fireworks to get pets used to the sound, but this needs to be done months in advance. If your pet has a phobia about fireworks, put it in your diary for spring time.