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There is no denying the beauty of fireworks as they pepper our skies with brilliantly coloured patterns; or the excitement of children whirling sparklers, whilst gathered round to roast potatoes by the family bonfire, topped by an effigy of Guy Fawkes.
Well that is how it used to be on November 5th; but now it seems that for several days before the official bonfire night, and for many days afterwards, the evening peace is disturbed for hours on end by rockets, sporadically renting the air with ear splitting explosions, probably contributing to premature hearing problems for good measure, and all for a second or two of dazzling colour. The results of which, sends one of my furry friends into terrible paroxysms of fear.
At the serious risk of being judged a party pooper, I have to say that I am now beginning to detest, with a passion, the name of Guy Fawkes and dread the arrival of November. Not to mention the times when people feel the need to share their birthday and anniversaries with the whole town, heralding the start and end of their celebrations by exploding a few more air born missiles.
I could rant on for ages about my hate for fireworks, but will desist - for the moment.
WHY? I hear you ask, am I so down on something that gives so much pleasure to so many.
~~~~~~~~~Reason for my hatred of fireworks.~~~~~~
The absolute terror that some animals experience after just one explosion, is heartbreaking to witness. There are no words to convey accurately the true horror an animal, severly distressed by sudden, loud overhead noises, suffers; but I will try to give a rough idea of their ordeals.
I have two dogs, Mollie, a Yorkie, who couldn't care tuppence about fireworks, she sleeps through it all, and Moses, a Collie cross, who is absolutely terrified. Even distant popping sounds of fireworks petrifies him. His hearing is second to none. Strangely though, any fireworks on the TV doesn't disturb him in the least.
~~~~~~~~Symptoms of excessive stress levels in pets~~~~~~
One night , just before Halloween , fireworks were being let off in the distance; the first I knew of it, was when Moses started clawing at my leg and desperately trying to clamber onto my lap. His ears were tight against his head, eyes wide, tail between his legs, mouth agape, tongue lolling over the side, reaching for the floor as if it were too heavy to haul back into his mouth.
His heart beat was so rapid, I feared for his health and his breathing can only be described as acute hyperventilation.
If a person exhibited those sort of symptoms, an ambulance would be summond post haste.
At first I wondered what was wrong, then I too heard the sound of distant explosions. There was no calming him, he couldn't get close enough to me, even when sat on my lap with his head tucked under my chin. He was shaking uncontrollably. This continued for several hours until, eventually no more explosions occurred, when he fell into an exhausted sleep.
When he was a puppy, he wasn't bothered by them, but two years ago, when he needed to go out for a tiddle, a rocket exploded overhead. From then on his fear has increased year by year.
I couldn't possibly sedate him for weeks on end, until all the 'celebrations' ceased. I had to seek a more suitable remedy.
~~~~~~~~One possible solution~~~~~~~~
I went into my local pet shop in search of a natural calming medication, specifically designed for animals, to help Moses.
There were two brands of remedies available, but the only one they could recommend through experience, was the Dorwest Valerian compound,in liquid form and the Dorwest Scullcap and Valerian tablets. Both of which I eventually bought and tried on Moses.
~~~~~~~~Dorwest Organic Valerian Liquid Compound~~~~~
Available in 30ml and 100ml amounts.
This pungent smelling liquid is designed to help cats and dogs on those occasions when, (in Dorwest's words) "Over the top behaviour is a problem," such as fear of sudden noises and excessive anxiety.
It can be given straight into the mouth (though personally, I wouldn't try that method) or mixed with their food.
A few drops added to a cat's bedding is also said to aid relaxation.
The compound is a mixture of organic herbs, Vervain, Valerian and Mistletoe, in brown dropper bottles with instructions for use and dosages, on the labels.
The suggested daily intake for small dogs and cats is one quarter of a 5ml teaspoon (1.25ml). For medium dogs, half a 5ml teaspoon (2.5ml) and for large dogs, 5ml.
As you might imagine, these are not easy dosages to measure out in a spoon and, as I will explain later, the efficacy of the remedy, in my opinion, depends largely on getting the dosages as near as possible to the recommended amounts.
30ml cost me £8.55
~~~~~~~~Dorwest Scullcap and Valerian Tablets~~~~~~~
Available in 100, 200 and 500 tablet quantities.
These are small (approx 9mm in diameter ) sugar coated tablets containing the herbs, Valerian, Mistletoe, Scullcap and Gentian; designed to help relieve the symptoms of excessive anxiety, nervousness, exciteability and even travel sickness, in cats and dogs.
It can also be used alongside anticonvulsants in the treatment of epilepsy in animals - though veterinary advice should always be sought first in those situations.
The recommended dosage is 1 - 2 tablets per 5kg body weight.
100 tablets cost me £8.15
Caution: Neither of the Dorwest preparations should be given to pregnant or lactating animals.
Dorwest supply a very useful pamphlet, giving helpful hints on how to help your pet through their fears, and also how the preparations will help relieve some of the excessive symptoms of stress.
The literature suggests that if an animal is of an extremely nervous disposition, a combination of the two compounds can safely be administered, and it is best to start the treatment a week or so before the anticipated traumatic event occurs.
However, at first, I only used the liquid form, hoping that would suffice, and because Halloween was only one night away, I wasn't able to start Moses on the treatment as early as recommended.
~~~~~~~~Halloween night ~~~~~~~~
I never realized until then, how much teaspoons vary in size. I needed to give Moses 2.5 ml (half a teaspoon) Fortunately, I chose the largest of my selection and promptly measured out what I hoped was half a teaspoon of the liquid - erring on the lesser amount rather than overdose.
I decided to give him his remedy a few hours before the start of Halloween fireworks, to give it time to be absorbed into his system and relax him.
Mixing it with his dry complete food was a disaster; the liquid just rolled off the biscuit like water off a duck's back, so I mixed in some Cesar dog meat and a bit of rice. Moses sniffed at it, and tentatively licked the chunks of meat with little or no remedy on it, and looked sorrowfully at me as if questioning my sanity for offering him such a strange concoction.
I then had to take up a biscuit and pretend to eat it myself; gave Mollie an untreated biscuit, then offered Moses a chunk of remedy soaked meat, which he eventually took and swallowed, after which he slowly but surely ate the rest of the very pungent smelling offering - and then only because Mollie was hovering, threatening to eat it for him.
~~~~~~~~The effect on Halloween night~~~~~~
About four hours after his dose, Moses came pawing at my leg and tried clambering onto my lap, it was then I heard a distant popping sounds of fireworks, and realized his fear had been re-ignited, so then gave him a cuddle and talked calmly to him. I was pleased to note, that although he had been frightened by the fireworks, his stress levels were very much reduced, there was no uncontrollable shaking or gaping mouth, lolling tongue or crazed look in his eyes and he calmed down reasonably quickly, although each time a firework went off, he looked at me for reassurance, but his symptoms of stress remained low key.
Unfortunately, I had not given Moses the correct amount of Dorwest, as I discovered later when I thought to measure it more accurately with a syringe.
The explosions were much closer and the noises very much louder. Moses's stress levels rose to excessive proportions and remained so for several hours.
The following day (Friday) I bought the tablet form and started him right away with one tablet in the morning and one in the evening. I also measured, an accurate dose of the liquid form to add to his mid afternoon meal. The weekend was fast approaching, when I knew there would be more firework explosions nearby. I continued the treatments over the whole weekend.
Thankfully, although Moses was fully aware of the explosions and still very frightened, he did not exhibit the same excessive symptoms of terror.
Once I got the dose right for Moses, I feel that the Dorwest remedies did help to reduce his stress to a more tolerable level. It doesn't claim to cure fear, but Dorwest give valuable advice on how to desensitize a pet to loud noises..
I shall start treating Moses again after Christmas, in preparation for the New Years Eve celebrations.
The tablet form have a long shelf life, so any left over will be okay to use the following year.
The one big disadvantage is that the liquid smells pretty awful and it is very difficult to get Moses to eat it when mixed in with his food. It does not cure his hatred of loud explosions, just slightly reduces his reactions to them.
~~~~~~~Where can Dorwest products be found?~~~~
Dorwest is based in Shipton Gorge, Bridport, Dorset DT6 4LP. Their website is www.dorwest.com. which will link to online stockists.
To find the nearest stockist email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01308 897272 for help and advice.