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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. 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, severely 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 petrify 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 summoned 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. That continued for several hours until, eventually no more explosions occurred, when he fell into an exhausted sleep.
When he was a puppy, they did not bother him, 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 could not 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 both 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 would not 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, excitability 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 was not able to start Moses on the treatment as early as recommended.
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
Pictures of Dorwest Herbs Scullcap & Valerian Tablets
louder. Moses’ 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.
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 email@example.com or call for help and advice.
Get the timing and dosage right and it will help your pet
This year, I gave Moses the correct dosage of Dorwest preparations. The effects were as follows.
Two days before Halloween and before I had started Moses on his Dorwest preparations, fireworks were being let off in the neighbourhood; although they were not ear-splitting, Moses was petrified, even by the distant popping sounds, and exhibited all the excessive symptoms of stress. Shaking uncontrollably, eyes wide, mouth agape tongue out, and hyperventilating. This continued for an hour after the first explosion. On Halloween, when I had dosed Moses with the preparations, no fireworks were heard - typical!
For two days before Nov 5th, I dosed Moses with two Scullcap, Valerian tabs each day. On Bonfire night, I gave Moses the recommended dose of liquid Valerian with his mid afternoon meal, and later in the early evening gave him two scullcap, valerian tablets.
At first in the early evening, of Bonfire night, there were distant popping of fireworks, which alerted Moses, but he did not react in the usual manner, he was anxious, but that was all. I felt then that the Dorwest medication was working well for him.
Unfortunately, an hour or so later, my next-door neighbour started letting off ear-splitting fireworks, the sounds even hurt my ears and startled me when they first began. Moses reacted, by beginning to shake and hyperventilating, then when silence reigned for a few minutes, he relaxed, but then when more explosions followed in rapid succession, Moses went into petrified mode again and could not stop shaking for about half an hour.
On November 6th, I dosed Moses again, for I knew there would be fireworks that night whatever the weather - and of course there were, but in the distance, Moses heard them, was anxious, but managed to relax.
I conclude that whilst the Dorwest preparations can certainly help reduce the symptoms of stress when the sounds of fireworks are distant or not excessively loud. They were not helpful in conditions where the explosions are close by and horrendously loud.
Excellent review. Poor Moses, my dog Sam hates fireworks too but he gets himself so wound up over them and wants to chase them. The firework season is a nightmare for us (and our neighbours!) as he barks constantly as soon as he hears the first bang.