Disasters during Diwali affect pets, families and homeless ones alike. Animals have a level of hearing that is much more sensitive than that of humans, which means every firecracker sounds earth-shattering to them. Often, they panic and try to escape. Several dogs go missing and some owners never succeed in tracking down their much-loved pets.

As for homeless dogs, when firecrackers are lit on the streets, they are traumatised by the smoke and noise and go into hiding, venturing out only after the celebrations are over. In the process, they lose a chance to search for food and go hungry for several days. Those with newborn litters might lose them to the fireworks when the young ones scamper away. Others suffer injuries that go untreated as they are ownerless. Avoid firecrackers, light lamps instead.

Says Shirin Merchant, India's leading canine behaviour counsellor, and editor of the canine magazine Woof! The Mag with a Wag, “A dog reacts to noise as a direct reflection of his human companion. If you show fear or act nervous during a loud noise, your dog will pick up on your signals and learn that loud noises are to be feared. Do not praise your dog when he shows fear of loud noises. If you do, you are not only praising him for being frightened, but you are making it more likely that he will be frightened the next time a loud noise happens. Many well-meaning dog owners increase their dog's anxiety by stroking, cuddling, and saying "It's OK" when their dogs act nervous. Instead, spend some time with your dog being fun and playful. Distract him from the noise”.

She warns against gunpowder contained in fireworks that is toxic if ingested, and suggests measures to keep pets calm– “Dogs instinctively seek out confined spaces when frightened. If your dog hides under the bed or behind a cupboard, don’t drag him out in an attempt to comfort him. Instead, put some clothing or towels with your familiar scent next to him for reassurance. Play soothing music relatively loud to help drown out the fear-producing noise”.

Last but not the least, remember that good intentions can be fatal - do not administer any medicine to your pet without consulting a veterinarian.

Keywords: Dog care