Monday 21 January 2019

The vet's view: 'All pets should be kept indoors during bad weather'

Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA

Pete Wedderburn i

On Monday morning, I knew from listening to the news that Storm Ophelia was on the way. My terrier Kiko also realised that something odd was going on. When I called her for her usual morning walk, she stayed tightly curled up in her bed, glancing nervously at me when she heard her name. The storm was still five hours away, but Kiko was on to it.

Many animals have an innate sense of awareness about upcoming changes in the weather, from sheep huddling together to birds returning to their nests and bees to their hives. Many dog owners notice changes in their pets' behaviour. Dogs are more aware than humans of barometric pressure, as well has having ultra-sensitive hearing and a long-lasting memory of the changing pressures and distinctive noises from previous storms that have upset them. Dogs react in different ways - some go quiet, like Kiko, while others get agitated, pacing the house, whining.

On Monday morning, our clinic took a few calls from owners who were looking for medication to help keep their pet calm. While this is needed for dogs that become genuinely distraught during storms, for most pets, simple advice suffices.

All pets (dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs) should be kept indoors during inclement weather. A cosy den should be set up, with curtains closed, the radio playing classical music, soft bedding, some favourite toys and perhaps a plug-in diffuser nearby, infusing the air with calming pheromones. If pets get agitated, don't over-react: you can encourage dogs to show anxious behaviour if you reward them by giving too much attention. Just carry on with normal household activities around them.

By the way, the same advice applies to pets that are frightened of the sounds of fireworks. Storm Ophelia may have gone, but don't dismantle your pet's soundproof den: you'll need it for Halloween.

Pete Wedderburn is a vet and columnist.

Irish Independent

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