How to help your pet deal with fireworks
Pets and bonfire night don’t mix. The days leading up to it can be hugely stressful for all pets. Dogs, in particular, are often badly affected by fireworks. Some get so scared they run off after being spooked by loud bangs. Thousands more need medication for stress and dog anxiety attacks.
What to do when your pet is scared of fireworks
CATS AND DOGS
- Keep them indoors, remember to lock cat flaps
- Try to soundproof your house, such as drawing curtains
- Create some low-grade background noise as a distraction using the television or radio – it’s wise to start this in advance of the fireworks starting
- Avoid fussing, cuddling or reassuring your pet while it is scared. This only tells your pet there is something to be scared about! Stay relaxed, act normally, praise calm behaviour and ignore the noises yourself
- If your pet is responsive, encourage your pet to play to distract them during the events
- NEVER deliberately walk your dog during a noise event. Try and choose times of day to walk when fireworks are less likely such as early mornings and keep them on a lead
- Make sure they have access to a place where they can hide safely if they want to. A “safe area” can be created using an old box or crate – speak to our nurses for advice with this
- Avoid leaving your pet alone during upsetting events. If you do leave the house, don’t get angry with them if they have been destructive after being left on their own
- Make sure there is an indoor litter tray available for your cat to use, and pop it in a convenient location for them. If cats are very anxious, they may avoid visiting the toilet if they feel threatened or scared
- Ensure your pet is wearing ID and microchipped so that if he does run away there’s a greater chance of him being returned to you
- Give your pet extra bedding to burrow into so that it feels safe
- Hutches, cages and enclosures should be brought into a quiet room indoors or a garage or shed. If they are too large to be moved consider covering the hutch with a thick blanket or old duvet to block out the sights and sounds
As with most problems, prevention is better than cure. It is important that from an early age, as much as possible can be done to help your pet associate loud noises with pleasant experiences such as a favourite game, chew toy or activity. These activities should be presented to your pet every time there are noisy events regardless of whether they seem stressed or not.
Sound desensitisation is a key part of training your dog to accept previously unpleasant noises. This approach to behaviour modification can be very rewarding but does require time and effort to achieve success. Nurses at the surgery will be happy to advise you on how to get started. Pre-recorded CD’s with a range of noises can be recommended. However, they should only be used in conjunction with competent behavioural advice as part of a regulated desensitisation programme.
Some cats and dogs will require the use of medicinal preparations to help with management of their noise phobias.
These include: diffusers, sprays and collars containing a synthetic copy of a pheromone found in dogs and cats which soothes and reassures.
Complimentary feed additives – derived from casein, a molecule found in milk which may help promote relaxation
Prescription medications – including mild sedatives and anxiety relieving agents.
All of these products are designed to be used in conjunction with behavioural therapy so please speak to someone at the surgery for advice before you start to use them. Desensitisation is the best long-term control, but takes time and patience so must be started well in advance of an anticipated noisy evening.