OVER eight in ten (84%) dog owners in Wales have revealed their pets are distressed by loud noises – and 19 % have even had to SEDATE their dogs to calm them down.

Over half (54%) of dog owners in the country say their beloved pets become especially distressed during Bonfire Night or other firework displays.

The situation has become so bad for a quarter (23%) of Wales’ dog owners that they have taken their pets to the vet to be treated for their reaction to sudden noises, according to a survey of 2,000 dog owners for Adaptil by Atomik Research.

Dogs develop a phobia to loud bangs that becomes gradually worse.

But two-thirds (67%) of dog owners in Wales have no idea that they can train their pets to cope with sudden noises – such as strangers knocking on the door at Halloween.

TV Vet Cat Henstridge aka ‘Cat the Vet’, said:

“In the run up to fireworks night it is important to follow our top 10 tips to help your dog cope with the loud noises.

“But what many owners do not realise is that you can work with your dog outside of the fireworks season to help them overcome and manage their fear.

“This is called desensitisation and counterconditioning. Desensitisation is when you expose them to fireworks noises but at a very low level and over time slowly increase the volume (as long as they are coping).

“Once they are less sensitive to fireworks you can then train them to associate fireworks with nice things (like tasty treats and toys).”

Over half (51%) of dog owners in Wales dread Bonfire Night because of the effect it has on their pet and nine per cent have had to ask neighbours to stop letting off fireworks because they were making their pet distressed.

The majority (59%) of dog owners in the country say they will stay in on Bonfire Night to make sure they can comfort their pet, while a third (36%) will stay in at Halloween and three in ten (34%) will remain at home during New Year’s Eve.

Halloween is also tough for the UK’s 8.9m dogs, with three in ten (29%) owners across the UK – and 38% in Wales – saying their pet becomes anxious due to strangers knocking on the door throughout the evening.

The worst symptoms of distress in dogs include cowering, excessive barking, running around furiously, panting and howling.

Two-fifths (42%) of owners in Wales say their dog is distressed by storms and a quarter (29%) say their pet is disturbed by the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

To calm their dogs, 70% of owners simply stay beside them, 63% stroke them and 50% close the curtains and doors.

Vet Andy Fullerton said:

“For dogs, the sounds of fireworks naturally startle them as their hearing is much more sensitive than ours. This activates their primitive fight or flight response releasing adrenalin and cortisol.

“Fireworks tend to be more than one bang and therefore if they are unable to get away from them and have a bad experience their fear can worsen and they can develop a phobia over time.

“Firework phobias are when the “fight or flight” response has gone into overdrive resulting in a reaction way out of proportion to the threat posed by fireworks (there is no actual threat).

“Many other factors such as genetics, life events, socialisation and medical conditions can influence whether a dog develops a phobia of fireworks. A recent report by the PDSA states 51% of veterinary professionals say that they have seen an increase in pets with phobias (such as fireworks) in the last two years. This highlights the need for us to work together and raise awareness of what we can do to help our beloved dogs.”

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