The firework season may be a fun and exciting time for you and your family, but unfortunately it is estimated that approximately 60% of pets become stressed and fearful while fireworks are going off, often when owners are out of the house enjoying the festivities.
Pet owners should plan in advance and prepare their pets for fireworks, to ensure that the experience is as stress-free as possible.
Follow the 'Remember, remember your pets this November' tips below to look after your pets during the firework season and help them cope with the loud noises and bright lights that they may have a fear of.
Some animals become very fearful around the fireworks’ season which can develop into a phobia so it is important not to comfort them during this time, especially if they are showing signs of distress. Animals pick up on your anxiety which can make the problem worse. Never reward fearful behaviour with cuddles and reassurance you should remain calm and relaxed and carry on as if nothing is happening. Fussing and rewarding your pet is actively encouraging this behaviour.
Keep dogs and cats indoors at night in the run-up to the fireworks’ season and ensure nervous pets have somewhere comfortable to hide away. A good idea is to prepare a ‘den’ for your dog, so that he has somewhere to hide during the loud bangs. Encourage him to use it by hiding healthy food treats or favourite toys there. If your dog hides in a corner or under a bed, leave him alone and do not try to coax him out. This ‘bolthole’ is where he will feel most secure and must be accessible at all times. You can further help create this comforting ‘den’ for your dog by using a plug in D.A.P® diffuser (dog appeasing pheromone) these can be purchased from vets or good pet shops and help to lower stress levels.
If your cat hides on top of cupboards or under furniture, leave her alone and do not try to coax her out. This is where she will feel most secure. Plugging a Feliway diffuser in the room where your cat spends most of her time, at least 48 hours before the fireworks, will increase her sense of security and calm.
On the evenings you expect fireworks it is advisable to ensure your dog has been taken for an early evening walk before the fireworks start. Make sure your pets are then safely inside and close all doors and windows. It can also be helpful to keep blinds and/or curtains closed. You may also find it helpful to play music or leave the television on which will mask the sound of the fireworks outside.
It is vital to ensure your pets are micro-chipped. If by chance they do escape, frightened and confused animals can easily become lost. If they are chipped this will ensure they are returned to you as quickly as possible. Vets will carry out this procedure quickly by implanting a tiny microchip which carries a unique code, together with information about your pet. This can then be scanned (by a vet, police or animal welfare organisation) if your pet is found and then returned to you.
For pets living outdoors, ie rabbits and guinea pigs, it is preferable to move them indoors, possibly to the garage or an area in the kitchen during the busy firework season. If that is not possible, it is important to ensure that they are securely covered over at night time.
If you know your pet has reacted badly to fireworks previously it is advisable to make an early appointment with your vet to discuss possible treatments that might help your pet feel more comfortable during this difficult time.
For further information visit www.petfireworkfear.co.uk.
Remember, never punish your pet for fearful behaviour. This only confirms that there is something to be afraid of!
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.
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