PET owners should prepare their animals for fireworks season by getting them used to loud bangs, a Feltham vet urged this week.
Cats, dogs and other creatures can be desensitised to such noises by playing them CDs and gradually increasing the sound - similar to the methods used with humans in aversion therapy - he claims.
Sean McCormack, who works at the Animals Are Us surgery, in Uxbridge Road, Feltham, said it was important to prepare animals for fireworks night on November 5, as well as religious festivals often celebrated with bangers.
His practice is inundated with requests for advice from frantic owners at this time of year and staff have to treat a number of injured pets because of the disturbances caused by fireworks.
"By acting now before the fireworks begin in earnest we can help our pets to conquer their fear and prevent noise phobias developing in the first place," he said.
"There are several ways in which we can help including modifying the home environment, behavioural techniques such as desensitisation and counter conditioning, nutritional aids, pheromone therapy and finally medical management.
"Desensitisation involves exposing your pet gradually and with increasing intensity to the sound and sensations associated with whatever it fears.
"Whilst increasing these exposures in volume and frequency it is critical to ensure they become associated with pleasant experiences such as games, reward-based obedience sessions and fun interaction with family members."
Mr McCormack's other tips for worried pet owners during fireworks season include:
* Never punish your pet when it is scared
* Provide a den or covered area where your pet can retire and feel safe
* Close windows, doors and cat flaps to prevent panicked pets escaping
* Provide distractions like new toys, or leave the TV on
* Ignore fearful behaviour from your pet as this will only make it more distressed
* Never punish your pet when it is scared.
He has organised an information evening for members of the public at the practice's main surgery, in Station Road, Hayes, next Tuesday (October 11) at 7.30pm.