Preparing For Firework Season
As Summer ends and the seasons change, we face different obstacles as pet owners. With October marking the start of firework season and Bonfire Night quickly approaching, this blog aims to give you our top tips on keeping your pets safe and calm this firework season.
Why Do Fireworks Scare Pets?
As we all know, fireworks make a loud noise when they go off. For pets (especially dogs and rabbits who have a more acute sense of hearing and can hear sounds up to four times further away than humans) this can be alarming and distressing.
Fireworks are also unpredictable, and whilst this is part of the fun for humans, for pets the different intervals of the explosions mean they struggle to get used to the noise and are unable to pinpoint where the explosion is coming from.
For many pets, the loud noise and unpredictability of fireworks trigger their fight-or-flight response as they perceive them as a threat. So, what can we do in anticipation of this?
Preparing For Firework Season:
Making sure you are well prepared for firework season can help ease the stress for both you and your pet.
Check Your Pet’s Microchip
Due to fireworks triggering flight-or-flight responses in pets, it’s very common for them to run away. According to the Petlog lost pet line, statistics in previous years showed a significant increase in calls from the end of October to early November. Making sure your pet’s microchip details are up to date, and if they wear a collar they have an ID tag are essential tools to help reunite fearful pets with their owners.
Settling Your Pet Beforehand
It’s a good idea to check out when your local firework events are planned so you can put measures in place early before the firework display starts. It is important to make sure your pet feels settled and secure, you can do this by:
Walking your dog before it’s dark so they can relieve themselves before any potential fireworks go off.
Feeding your pet before any fireworks go off - once they begin, your pet may be too stressed to eat - especially rabbits which can be life-threatening if they do not eat, so feeding them their favourite veg before it is dark can encourage them to eat but also try to increase their fibre intake as this encourages good gut function and a comfortable gut.
Bring outdoor pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits indoors, if you cannot bring them inside then cover their hutches with thick covers to dampen the sound of fireworks and hide the flashes which can also cause alarm.
Shut the curtains and blinds in your home, not only do the bangs alarm pets, but firework phobic pets will associate the flashes caused by a firework with a bang.
Use Adaptil (dog), Feliway (cats and rabbits), or Pet Remedy (all other pets) diffusers to reduce stress levels. Adaptil and Feliway release a synthetic pheromone similar to what their mum would release as they fed so it is naturally appeasing. The diffuser should be in place at least 2-3 weeks before firework season.
Some herbal remedies have been known to help - ask us about them, but these need to be given weeks in advance and are not a quick fix.
Ensuring your house and garden are escape-proof. Shutting windows, doors, and curtains can block out light flashes and reduce loud bangs.
Making a ‘den’ for your dog filled with their favourite toys, blankets. It’s helpful for them to have a safe space to retreat to if they feel overwhelmed.
If you don’t have a litter tray for your cat, consider using one over the firework season so that they don’t need to venture outside if they are afraid. This also stops inappropriate urination such as your bed, when they cannot find a safe area to toilet and also helps reduce urinary problems if your cat has been able to toilet normally.
Give your small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and hamsters lots of places they can hide. But it is important that hides have an entry and an exit to help them feel more secure (think of a rabbit warren, there is always a fire exit for emergencies). Use lots of nice soft hay that they can bury into and feel secure (not coarse hay as this can cause eye injuries), or use blankets (if your pet isn’t a blanket nibbler), hammocks and tunnels.
Signs Your Pet Is Distressed:
If your pet is anxious, they can present this in numerous ways. This can include (but is not limited to):
Panting (cats and dogs)
Whining and howling (dogs)
Licking their lips (dogs)
Hunched appearance or trying to make themselves small.
Not wanting to eat - it is incredibly important that rabbits and guinea pigs eat regularly and any rabbit or guinea pig that doesn’t eat for 12 hours needs veterinary attention or advice as they are at high risk of stasis.
Dashing about/ panicking. Especially pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs can become very stressed during firework season and crash into walls or windows when trying to escape. Covering the hutch, windows and masking the noise of fireworks will help to reduce the risk of them injuring themselves.
Aggression - if your pet doesn’t feel safe and cannot ‘flight’ they can sometimes go into ‘fight’ mode.
Destruction of property - some pets can destroy property as they panic and cannot find a safe place to hide. It is common for dogs to scratch and damage doors and walls if they have been locked in a room and do not feel secure.
Ways To Relieve Stress During Fireworks:
It’s necessary to note that while not all pets are afraid of fireworks, they will pick up on your cues and actions. Pets are perceptive and will notice if your behaviour is unusual. Acting calmly can help keep your pet calm, whereas making a big deal out of fireworks, or being overly affectionate, can cause your pet to feel nervous or confused.
Other ways to help your pet whilst fireworks are going off include:
Avoid letting them go outside.
Cover the windows to dampen the sound of fireworks and hide the flashes.
Keep on the lights - indoor and outdoor lighting can help mask the flashes from fireworks.
Use their a safe space - however, if they don’t want to stay there do not confine them to this space, creating a ‘normal’ atmosphere where they can choose where they are comfortable is important. Similarly, if they do confine themself to a safe space, don’t tempt them out with treats and leave them be, even if the safe space is behind the sofa.
Give them a long-lasting toy to distract them or their favourite foods.
Play music, the radio, or put the TV on to minimise the loud noises - classical music is generally calming for pets and hides the bangs from fireworks well.
Keep your pet distracted by playing with their favourite toy or game.
Avoid leaving your dog on its own, especially if there is a big firework event planned close to your home.
Don’t have a bonfire near an outdoor hutch as the smell of smoke is naturally stress-inducing for small animals. Also, don’t forget to check the bonfire before lighting for hedgehogs or other pets that have taken refuge.
Reward calm behaviour with treats and games.
Do not tell off your pet if they get anxious, instead use a calming voice and try to distract them.
Always avoid taking your dog to a firework display, even if your dog appears calm, the loud noises and lights can be extremely overwhelming.
If your pet struggles with fireworks, don’t wait for them to be in crisis, talk to your vet or vet nurse now, we may be able to prescribe medications to help them cope over the firework season.
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