Diwali 2022: How to take care of your dog's mental health
During Diwali, the sudden loud noises and flashes cause severe anxiety in dogs. Here's how to take care of your furry companion's mental health.
Diwali can be hard on your dog's mental health for a range of reasons. Your furry friend who's accustomed to be around certain people or in specific environment can get anxious during festivals due to noisy and crowded get-togethers. As Diwali draws close, the sound of crackers could also trigger severe anxiety in dogs whose ears are more sensitive than humans. The exposure to the Diwali pollution can also cause respiratory issues in dogs while loud noises could also affect your pooch's ears. They may not know that fireworks could cause injuries to them and may end up getting hurt if pet parents are not vigilant. Besides, festival time can also make your pets feel lonely despite being surrounded by so many people, as all they want is their favourite person's (that is you) attention, which could be difficult in festive atmosphere. (Also read: Pet care: What makes a dog truly happy; pet expert shares)
"The festival of lights is a time of joy and happiness, but now the pet parents across India are trying to make it same for their beloved pooch. During Diwali, the sudden loud noises and flashes cause severe anxiety in most animals. This in addition also leads to an increase in respiratory issues from the extremely poor air quality," says Dr. Shantanu Kalambi, Chief Veterinarian, Supertails.
Dr Kalambi says dogs have a much more sensitive auditory system than humans, which means that every atom bomb that makes you flinch is a lot more magnified for them.
"The constant exposure to loud noises isn’t just aggravating, it can even result in hearing issues in your furry buddies," says the expert.
Even walking on the streets can be triggering for dogs, whose territory is invaded by a lot more people who explode fireworks on nearly every street. Curious dogs who might adore sticking their nose into everything might get injuries from crackers.
Another worry for pet parents every Diwali is the risk of losing their four-legged baby. Panicky and fearful dogs might escape during walks, or even run away from home if one doesn’t take the necessary precautions.
Dr Kalambi suggests tips to take care of your dog's mental as well as physical health during Diwali.
One of the most common ways to help dogs that get extremely stressed during the Diwali season is to use anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) prescription medicines. If you know your dog reacts adversely to fireworks, reach out to your veterinarian well in advance to discuss the best medicines to use to tide over this season.
2. Make them comfortable
Another common practice is to modify your environment, which means you adapt your dog’s surroundings to offer maximum security and comfort. This includes providing a safe place for your dog to retreat to when overwhelmed with stimuli. Make sure this spot is easy to access at all times and can be determined by simply observing where your dog often retreats when stressed. Make this place more comfortable by adding in their favorite toys, some soft bedding, warm blankets, and a water and feeding bowl.
3. Keep them safe
Dampen loud noises by keeping the windows close, and keep out sudden flashes of light by drawing the curtains shut. Always ensure that your pet is secured safely with no access to the outdoors to limit the chances of losing them. Swaddles for puppies and small breeds, calming wraps or pressure vests for bigger dogs can be adopted to soothe them. Like a warm hug, these wraps are shown to release endorphins to keep them calm and settled.
4. Keep them engaged
Chews or bones for your dog to gnaw on when anxious might keep them distracted. Frequent playtime might also keep their mind off the loud sounds and wear them out quicker so they sleep better.
You could also feed them around times of more active firework explosions. But if they refuse to eat, provide food during quieter periods instead. Trying to keep your usual routine might soothe certain dogs, especially if you have a lot of guests visiting or staying over. Do try to limit interactions with strangers as nervous dogs are more likely to react aggressively from fear.
5. Try herbal and Ayurveda remedies
Beyond medication, calming nutraceuticals like organic balms enriched with coconut, almond and argan can put your dog in a mellow mood. Sometimes, pheromones like melatonin have been proven to be effective. The benefits of herbal and Ayurvedic products are well documented, and are usually safer for long-term use. Bach flowers and essential oils like hemp seed oil and lavender oil work great in calming your pet’s anxiety.
6. Behavioural modification
The most popular method by far, behavioural modification is the method by which a dog is taught to overcome their fears. This includes counterconditioning, wherein dogs are rewarded with treats after exposing them to loud noises. Noise exposure training is another technique that seeks to desensitize dogs by gradually exposing them to loud sounds.
7. Keep them close
While a bit controversial, some pet parents simply support their dogs by keeping them close, petting them and talking to them calmly. While a common technique employed across the world, one must be careful to prevent the development of separation anxiety in fur babies. One should follow these ways to enjoy Diwali this time happily and in a better way with their cute dogs. Pet parents are always suggested to immediately consult a vet in severe conditions or when situations go out of their control.
"Even when hosting friends over, do your best to not lock or chain the animal up in a separate part of your home. This separation leads to immense amounts of stress in animals, when “their house” is full of guests and they’re not allowed to “pup-inspect” everyone. If your pet is friendly, let them roam about the party. If they have a tendency to bite, try and ensure they’re not left alone when kept separately," says Devanshi Shah, Founder & CEO – PetKonnect.