How Can I Help My Pet During Firework Season?October 6, 2020
We can expect this year’s firework season to be different to previous years, with many professional displays likely to be cancelled. However, this may mean there is an increase in the number of local households setting off fireworks. If this happens, then pets may have to deal with fireworks being let off in closer proximity than they may be used to, and at unpredictable times. However, there are steps you can take to help your pet cope with fireworks.
Signs that your pet is not coping during fireworks
If your pet is not coping with fireworks then there are many different signs of anxiety that they may show, from behaviour changes to signs of destruction. These signs will vary depending on the species of pet you own, with some signs being subtle and difficult to detect. Not every pet will show every sign.
Signs of anxiety in dogs and cats
Destructive behaviour – e.g. chewing, scratching
Loss of toilet training
Licking of lips (Dogs)
Trying to escape/run away
Small pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, are prey species and are particularly sensitive to noise. Because these animals try to hide any signs of illness this means that they may not show obvious signs when scared.
Signs of distress in small pets:
Stamping of back feet (Rabbits)
Sudden death (in severe cases)
Tips to help your pet cope and to keep them safe
There are a number of steps that you can take to help reassure your pet during the firework season. These steps should be offered to all pets, even if your pet does not show obvious signs of being frightened.
Steps to help dogs and cats cope:
- Close your curtains and blinds early before any fireworks start – This can help keep out any flashes of light and help provide some sound insulation to the room.
- Provide your pet with background music – This will help reduce the noise of the fireworks. Some music download sites will have playlists specifically for pets.
- Provide your pet with a safe place to hide which they can freely access – For dogs this should be an area where they feel comfortable e.g. behind the sofa, or inside a covered crate. Cats should have the option to hide higher up, e.g. on top of a shelf. This safe place should be constantly available to your pet in the lead up to firework night.
- Respond to your pets behaviour – If you pet wants to hide then you should let them and try not to disturb them by checking on them too frequently. However, if your pet wants attention then you can provide them with some reassurance (although ideally try to reward calm behaviour).
- Try to stay calm yourself – If you become anxious and worried, you will reinforce your pet’s worries. By staying calm, you help them to do so.
- Try distracting your pet with treat toys – e.g. Kong toys stuffed with your pet’s favourite food. This can be useful for distracting pets who are showing mild signs of anxiety or concern.
- Use a pheromone treatment such as Feliway for cats, or Adaptil for dogs – Pheromones provide a comforting signal for dogs and cats, so they can be used in your pet’s environment to help calm them during stressful situations. Pheromone treatment should be started at least two weeks in advance of the firework season.
- Do not leave your pet home alone when there are fireworks.
- Make sure that your pet is microchipped – if your pet goes missing from home you can be reunited if they are found.
- Walk dogs at times of the day when no fireworks will be heard – avoid walking your dog at dusk or in the dark. If your dog is nervous around fireworks, keep them on a lead at this time of year in case they become frightened and run away.
- Keep all cats indoors overnight – they might run away if frightened. Remember to lock any cat flaps and to keep windows and doors shut. This will also stop outdoor cats from getting injured by fireworks.
Steps to help small pets cope:
Bring any outdoor pets inside during firework displays – A garage is a good option for providing your pet with shelter. If you cannot bring your pets inside then make sure their house is covered at night to give them some protection from the noise and flashes of the fireworks.
Provide your pets with places to hide and give them plenty of bedding – They can use this to hide in and to muffle any loud sounds.
If your pet is struggling to cope with fireworks or is showing severe signs of fright then you should bring them in to see one of our vets as soon as you can.
Helping pets with long-term firework issues:
Pets who struggle every year during the firework season will need additional treatment to try and help reduce the long-term distress that fireworks cause.
Speak to one of our vets for advice
If your pet has reacted badly to fireworks in the past then try to bring them in for an appointment in advance of any fireworks being heard. Your pet will be checked for any underlying medical conditions and a long term treatment plan can be put into place.
These programs use soundtracks to expose your pet to firework noises at a volume that does not cause them anxiety. The soundtracks need to be repeated daily with the volume being gradually increased when your pet is ready to move on to the next stage. This treatment can take a long time and should be started months in advance of firework season and only with the advice of one of our vets. The Dogs Trust website offers free soundtracks and desensitisation advice.
Referral to a Veterinary Behaviourist
For severe cases, one of our vets may recommend a behavioural assessment from a Veterinary Behaviourist registered with the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.
Severe cases may require medication during firework season, especially to help your pet cope in the short term. Our vets will usually combine medication with a desensitisation program or further behavioural advice.
Many pets are scared of fireworks, so it is a common issue which our vets are used to helping your pets deal with every year. Our vets understand that it is also distressing for owners to watch their pets struggle with fireworks. If you feel your pet is not coping during the firework season, contact our veterinary team for further advice so help can be given to your pet.