DEAR READERS: A message from the British Veterinary Association:
“As animals have more acute hearing than humans, many show stress, fear or even phobia responses to loud and high-pitched noises.
“Loud and high-pitched fireworks can cause stress or fear responses across a range of species, including companion animals, wildlife, horses, livestock and zoo animals. Fireworks can reach up to 150 decibels -- as loud as a jet engine.
“It is estimated that 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. [A 2018 report from PDSA, a U.K. veterinary charity,] highlights that 51% of veterinary professionals said that they have seen an increase in pets with phobias such as fireworks in the last two years, and 40% of dog owners report that their dog is afraid of fireworks.
“Debris and remnants of fireworks can also pose a risk to the health and welfare of livestock and wildlife. Current controls on the use and sale of fireworks don’t go far enough to protect the health and welfare of animals in the U.K. Easy access to fireworks is putting the U.K.’s animals at risk of avoidable pain, suffering and fear.”
Some of the BVA’s recommendations, which should be advocated by veterinary organizations in the U.S. and adopted by all municipalities, include:
-- Reduce the noise limit of fireworks for public sale and use to 97 decibels, with a 15-meter safety distance;
-- Clearly label fireworks to indicate their noise level to consumers, e.g., “low-noise firework” or “loud firework: risk to animal welfare”;
-- Restrict the private use of fireworks to agreed-upon traditional dates. This would align controls on use with controls on sale, which require retailers to have a license to sell fireworks outside of specific dates;
-- Introduce licensing of all public displays and organized events using fireworks.
If your pet suffers from these types of stressful reactions, your veterinarian will be able to advise you on evidence-based therapies, or refer you to an animal behaviorist.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 7-year-old longhaired male Chihuahua.
He is the love of my life and very spoiled. Twice now, he has needed veterinary care and had horrible results.
The first visit, I had them trim his nails. He was so scared and fought them so much that they had to hold him very tightly, and he cried for the next two days whenever I would pick him up.
The second time, he snagged a nail in my bedspread and pulled so hard to get free that he almost pulled the nail out. I rushed him to my veterinarian’s office, where they took him in the back, removed that nail and trimmed the others. When the doctor came in, he told me what they had done and that Sammie was so scared he had stopped breathing and was turning blue. I almost died right there.
I am a firm believer of spaying and neutering dogs, but because of these two visits, I am scared to take him in for the procedure. I’m scared of the chance that he’ll be so frightened that he’ll stop breathing again, or have a problem with the anesthesia.
I want him to live as long as he can. I am hoping you can ease my anxiety with a way I can get him neutered safely, so he can live a long, healthy life with me. -- S.M., Cape Coral, Florida
DEAR S.M.: What an upsetting experience for you and your poor dog.
Your veterinarian should prescribe an oral sedative to give to your dog in the future, prior to an ideally in-home visit, a trip to the hospital being a stressful event to be avoided.
It is important, as a preventative measure against terror and even heart attacks, to get dogs used to having their paws and gums massaged, teeth brushed and nail-tips clipped from as early an age as possible.
Also, get them used to being held; puppy “cradling” is essential conditioning. Properly hold the pup in your arms, gently and securely, and hold on if there is struggling. Do not release until the pup is calm and relaxed.
Many veterinarians are backing away from neutering small dogs, for various reasons. I see no reason you should consider neutering your dog, considering his age and temperament, which could indeed pose a potential anesthetic risk.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)