Bonfire Night is coming up, which means that there will inevitably be fireworks set off throughout the night. If you live in a busy area there is likely to be loud noises from both fireworks and crowds gathering to admire them. Most UK pets will find the unpredictable noises very scary, as they are very much out of the ordinary for them. The PDSA reports that 40% of dogs and cats are afraid of fireworks, as the loud bangs of a firework display can be very distressing. So advice on keeping your pets safe and calm during fireworks would be very helpful.
SIGNS THAT YOUR PET IS SCARED OR DISTRESSED
If your pet is exhibiting a combination of these behaviours, then they are likely to be stressed or frightened.
- Attempting to hide
- Hyperactivity, pacing or unable to settle
- Shaking or trembling
- Lifting their paw
- Not eating as usual (including not taking treats)
- Going to the toilet indoors when they usually go outside
- Becoming reactive or aggressive
HOW TO CALM AN ANXIOUS DOG OR CAT BEFORE THE FIREWORKS
You can try and get your pet accustomed to fireworks noises before the big event. You can do this by playing fireworks noises, initially at a lower volume to ensure your pet doesn’t become distressed. As they get used to the noises, you can increase the volume gradually so that they are exposed to the same loud noises that they will hear during the night.
Walk your dog during the daytime as it’s a lot less likely that fireworks are going to be set off during the day. This way, you can keep them inside during the fireworks, and they may be more tired out and so less likely to be on high alert.
Make sure your pet is microchipped and has their collar on, and that your house is secured. If your pet gets frightened on the night, then there is a risk that they might bolt and get lost or injured. If they run away and they have appropriate identification, then they can much more easily be returned to you.
If your pet has feared fireworks over previous years, and nothing you do seems to calm them, then you should speak to your vet. Your vet can recommend solutions, including sprays and medications, such as Zylkene tablets, to help make the night easier for them. There is dog anxiety medication, such as calming tablets for dogs available to help them feel more calm and relaxed throughout the evening.
You can also purchase calming, anxiety relief coats for pets online, and Feliway or Adaptil plug ins to help control your dogs and cats anxiety.
HOW TO CALM A STRESSED DOG OR CAT DURING AND AFTER THE FIREWORKS
4. Make sure there is no firework debris in your garden before allowing them outside as they can be hazardous to your pets. Before you let your pet back out into the garden in the days following Bonfire Night, please check through the areas that they have access to, to ensure that no debris has fallen into your garden. If any pieces have fallen from fireworks into your garden, your pet is likely to be curious and try and investigate it. This can then pose a choking hazard to them, so better to check before letting them out.
- We recommend not to try and pick up or restrain your cats when they are scared, as they prefer to be in control of their coping behaviours. Picking them up when they are in this state can result in injury to either you or your cat.
- Try not to overcompensate and try to comfort your pet too much. It’s ok to comfort them as normal when they seek it from you. However, too much fuss will make your pet feel even more unsettled as they then think there is a reason to be anxious.
- If you have rabbits or guinea pigs, make sure they’re inside the home for the few days leading up to the fireworks and in hutches or cages with a blanket partly covering the housing. This way, their housing will be more sound-proofed, but will remain well-ventilated.
- Make sure no bonfires or smoke is near your pets or their hutches and cages. Not only do the bonfires pose a huge safety risk to your animals, but the smoke inhalation can also cause serious problems.
- If you are building your own bonfire, we recommend building it as close to the time it will be lit as possible. If it is built leading up to the event, local wildlife might confuse it with a warm, sheltered place to sleep. You should ensure you disturb the base of the bonfire before lighting it to allow any wildlife to escape before it’s lit.