Firework season is nearly here and although early nights are perfect for great displays, if your pet finds them frightening, then night time can become a nightmare for pets.
We always recommend starting a de-sensitisation programme as early as possible. Podcasts of firework noises are available free from the Dogs Trust website – www.dogstrust.org.uk – these can be played to your pets starting off quietly and slowly increasing the volume. CD’s can also be purchased. Done correctly, this normalises the sounds for your pets and means they won’t react to the real thing when the big bangs start!
So how can you help your pets on firework night? Tire them out! Give your dog a good early walk and nice big meal, both of which will make them nice and sleepy. It’s important to keep the cat flap locked during the evenings when fireworks are being let off and ensure your pet’s micro-chip details are up-to-date just in case they do manage to escape.
Make a den. Animals feel much more secure in small spaces which will also help to muffle the noises – as does keeping the curtains closed and tv (or music) on. Let your pet hide away and snuggle with their favourite blankets and toys and just leave them.
Although we do need to comfort our pets if they are frightened it’s important not to be too over the top as this can encourage attention seeking behaviour. The best time to praise and pet them is when they are being calm and relaxed. The key is to try and act as normal as possible.
We recommend using Adaptil (for dogs) and Feliway (for cats) – these are calming pheromone products that help to reduce anxiety. They are available as plug-in diffusers and are best positioned close to where your pet sleeps. Sprays and collars are also available and again we always advise starting to use the products as early as you can. These products can be purchased from your vets or good pet stores.
It’s important not to forget about bunnies and guinea pigs – they should be moved indoors where possible or failing that covered over nice and early in the evening. Extra bedding will also help to mask the sounds and they can be nice and snuggly.
Some pets cannot cope and may need sedative medication during this time. If you are concerned that your pet may need extra help, we advise speaking to your vet early on so that a programme can be put in place well in time.
For more detailed information if your pet is noise phobic, read our blog post here:
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.