The firework season can be a very scary time for your pets. Statistics show that over half of pets suffer stress or fear as a result of fireworks.
It is important to prepare early and help your pets reduce the stressful effects of the strange sights and sounds of fireworks.
Like other displays of anxiety and fear, signs may include:
- escape attempts
- attention seeking
- refuge seeking
Many dogs are fearful and anxious when exposed to seasonal fireworks – a dog’s response mimics the expected fright or flight emotions where either they freeze, or orientation to the sound where they exhibit extreme panic characterised by bolting or escaping attempts.
Attention-seeking behaviours may include whining, pawing, nuzzling, or climbing on their owners. Escape attempts involve hiding under or behind furniture, and seeking safety in a bathroom.
Some dogs may seek refuge in the home and may be hesitant to go outside, while others may run outside and resist coming inside.
Dogs with a fear of fireworks may also show a fear of noises associated with thunderstorms.
TIPS DURING FIREWORKS
- Keep your pets inside the house at night during the firework period.
- Walk your dogs during the day and make sure cats are brought inside before dark.
- If you have to leave your pets alone at night leave a radio/television on.
- Close curtains and blinds as well as windows and catflaps to ensure that they cannot escape
- Provide your pets with a den to hide in if they are frightened, i.e. behind a sofa. Put some bedding there and do NOT disturb your pet when it is in its den.
- Your reaction to your pet’s fearful behaviour is the most important. Try and behave as normal as possible. Cuddles and reassurance encourage your pet to continue the behaviour that they are displaying, whether it is sitting nicely or displaying fear. Therefore, it is very important to IGNORE your pet for displaying signs of fear and only reward calm behaviour.
Ignoring means: –
Do NOT speak to your pet
Do NOT touch your pet – sorry no cuddles this time!
- Reward your pet’s calm behaviour with attention, games and treats – maybe even buying a new toy or treat.
Don’t forget about smaller pets
If your rabbits or guinea pigs live outside, they can also become scared and stressed with the strange lights and noises from the fireworks.
If you can bring their hutch inside that would help – otherwise cover part of their hutch to effectively soundproof it.
Give them some extra bedding so that they can create their own den. Don’t cover the whole hutch so they can’t see out.
Helping with the fear
Sedatives are sometimes used to suppress the fear during fireworks; however they do not actually help in reducing fear levels in the long term as they can sometimes just inhibit the animal’s ability to respond.
There are a number of non – prescription products available such as Adaptil that help calm and relax your pet. These are based on the use of pheromones and work best if they are introduced a few weeks prior to the firework season so that they are already working.
Preventing firework fears
This is best achieved when your pet is young. Young animals are very receptive during their early socialisation period in the first few months of their lives.
During these early months, they should be introduced to a wide range of potentially scary sounding things e.g. hoover, washing machine, hairdryer etc and taught that they are harmless.
This can also be done by using specific audio CD’s with these noises on. These audio CD’s can also be used in older pets to try to desensitise the noise fear. They also include other sounds such as guns firing and babies crying to ensure that your pet becomes used to a wide range of potentially scary noises.
If you have any concerns about any of these issues please contact us
How to build a fireworks den for your dog
Marc Abraham gives advice on how to build the perfect dog den for fireworks
We have a number of veterinary vacancies at our Barrow Hill Hospital in Kent
Read all our latest tips and advice for your pet this autumn
Hopefully the weather is set to stay- here’s a list of beaches where your dog is welcome too!