New SAVSNET research on fireworks
Pet owners should be taking pets to the vet now to prepare them for the firework season around Guy Fawkes night- this is the message from new SAVSNET research on fireworks and noise phobias.
The study looked at the reasons for taking animals to the vet from over 100,000 veterinary consultations between September 2012 and July 2014, and found that only 75 were clearly for firework related phobia. As fearful reactions to loud noises like thunder and fireworks are common in dogs, and likely to be an issue in many other animals too, a higher number of consultations might have been expected. Even amongst those who do seek help, nearly half wait until the week before bonfire night, which gives vets little time to identify the best treatment options for each pet.
The work was carried out by Liam O’Brien and Aisling Mooney, both year 12 school students undertaking summer research experience placements at the vet school. Both were supervised by Dr Jenny Newman who used text mining to help identify the cases. Dr Jenny Newman explained "The aim of this work was to explore trends in animals coming to the attention of veterinary surgeons as a result of their responses to fireworks. Text mining techniques, developed during the early months of my PhD with SAVSNET and the Health e-Research Centre (HeRC), were used to examine the records of 116,657 consultations recorded across a two year period. We think that the small proportion of firework-related consultations identified, reflects the tip of the iceberg of animals suffering the effects of noise related fear in the community. This, and the proximity of the vast majority of these consultations to November 5th, highlights the need to raise awareness of the evidence based management strategies available to assist animals in dealing with noise phobias. Appropriate and timely management is required to protect the welfare of animals during times of festivity".
Dr Alan Radford at the University of Liverpool added “SAVSNET data represents a unique opportunity for both members of the public and veterinary scientists to better understand the health and disease of UK pets. This firework project shows how SAVSNET can provide new insight even for conditions which are seemingly seen rarely by vets”.