Preparing your pet for Fireworks
As the days are getting shorter and bonfire night is approaching we are turning our minds towards fireworks. For many pets and their owners firework season can be a stressful time. We have put together some tips and advice to help your pets cope with fireworks and keep them as calm as possible.
To have the best chance of success, it is important to start your preparations for fireworks well in advance of the event. Unfortunately there is no quick-fix for fear of fireworks, but with time it is possible to make huge improvements for many animals.
Soundtracks of firework noise are available for free online, these are a fantastic resource which can be used to acclimatise your dog to the noise of fireworks in a controlled way, prior to the event. This should be done carefully and at very low volumes initially, with gradual increases in the volume (over a period of days and weeks) as the dog becomes used to the sounds. Encouraging your dog to associate the noise of fireworks with something positive (such as food!) can be helpful, but it is also important to incorporate the sounds into their everyday life so they don’t associate your treat jar with the noise of fireworks! If you would like advice on how this can be done, just get in touch.
On the night itself simple steps such as drawing the curtains, turning the radio or television up to mask the noises, and providing them with some distractions can help. Toys such as lickitmats, kongs or similar toys which can be stuffed with food will help to keep your dog busy.
Remember to exercise them before it gets dark to avoid the risk of them hearing fireworks when loose and running away. It is sensible to bring them in from the garden before dark if you think there may be fireworks.
Creating an area where your pet feels safe and can hide if they wish to is also useful, this takes time and should be in place for a few weeks before fireworks season. It is not advisable to make sudden changes to their environment close to the event as this may contribute to their stress.
Although we all want to be able to join in with the celebrations, if your dog is nervous of fireworks it is best to stay with them. We could all do with a cuddle when we are scared and dogs are no different! Try to remain calm even if your dog is very upset.
There are various supplements and medications which can be used alongside behavioural techniques to help keep dogs calm during stressful events such as fireworks. We see the best outcomes when these are started at least 2 weeks prior to the stressful event, if you think your dog may benefit from these then please contact us and we will be happy to discuss the options.
Unfortunately it is very common for cats to become scared and lost on fireworks night. For this reason it is sensible to keep your cat inside on bonfire night and the nights around it. Microchipping your cat and ensuring the details are correct will help us get your cat back home if it gets lost. We are happy to scan your cat’s chip and look up the details for you if you are not sure they are up to date.
Many of the behavioural techniques discussed for helping dogs are also suitable for cats.
Diffusers and sprays can be very helpful in creating a calm environment for your pet. These could be sprayed on the bedding and blankets that are used to create your ‘den’. Cats often feel safer higher up so may find a spot on a shelf or cupboard. Remember not to confine your cat in a crate or similar as they can injure themselves trying to escape. It is much safer to ensure that all windows and doors are shut, and allow them to pick an area in which they feel comfortable.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs can often be overlooked when discussing fireworks, but they too can become very stressed due to the loud noises and flashing lights. If possible, it is advisable on the nights around bonfire night too bring their hutch indoors if they usually live outside. Closing the windows and curtains and putting calming music on can help to muffle the noises outside.
If this is not possible then turning the hutch to face the fence rather than the garden can help the noise and flashes. Covering with a blanket and providing lots of bedding for them to bury down into can also minimise this.
Some calming products such as pheromone diffusers and sprays are also effective in rabbits and guinea pigs – please ask us for more information.
Supplements and Medications
There are a large number of supplements which could help to make your pet feel calm. Talk to one of the team to find out which may be best suited to your pet. It is important to start any supplements before bonfire night, as the effects will be minimal if your pet is already stressed.
As mentioned above, diffusers and sprays which mimic your pet’s natural calming mechanisms can also be effective.
If your dog becomes extremely stressed and you have not found anything which can help, it is worth talking to your Vet about prescription only medications. Referral to a qualified behaviourist can also be very effective to help pets deal with fireworks.
Now is the time to start thinking about how your pet is going to cope with this potentially stressful time of year. Feel free to call the practice or pop in for a chat with one of our nurses to see how we can help.
15th October 2019