Pets and fireworks: 12 tips on how to keep your furry friends calm and safe during fireworks season

Dog lay under a blanket
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With Bonfire Night just a couple of weeks away, many pet owners are now thinking about how to deal with the anxiety that fireworks cause their furry friends. White Cross Vets in Sale has shared its top tips to calm pets and reduce their stress levels.

White Cross Vets estimates that as many as three-quarters of pets suffer from anxiety due to loud fireworks at this time of year. 

Veterinary nurse, Sam Massey said: “Bonfire Night is a stressful time for lots of cats, dogs and other pets, that is often made worse by their very acute hearing, which can make fireworks seem overwhelming.

“We also see lots of self-injuries at this time of year, often due to panicked pets running to escape the noise or chewing things that they shouldn’t to alleviate stress. You can’t underestimate how frightening fireworks can be for pets.

“However, there are things pet owners can do to tackle anxious behaviour, as well as helping to prepare pets for the firework season. There are also treatments and medications available to help pets stay calm. Anyone concerned about their pets should prepare now and speak to their vet about particularly severe cases.”

12 top tips for pet owners in the run-up to Bonfire Night

  1. Walk dogs earlier before it gets dark, or even skip evening walks on Bonfire Night and the days around it. You can provide plenty of activities at home for a few days to keep your dogs entertained.
  2. Most pets will have an area in the house they prefer to hide in, making a den here will mean your pet is more likely to use it. Make sure the chosen den site is safe for your pet – for example, in the cupboard under the stairs is likely to be safer than down the back of the TV!
  3. Make sure wherever your pet hides is always accessible, whether you are home or not. If you are unexpectedly unable to get home and your pet can’t get to their den, this may cause additional upset.
  4. How we react to our pets’ noise anxieties and fears is very important. Lots of kisses and cuddles may seem the perfect way to reassure our dogs but this may actually cause an increase in their anxiety levels. When seeking reassurance from other dogs they will huddle together and lick to gather information, they can see our kisses as us needing reassurance and this can suggest that there is something to be worried about.
  5. Keep calm. Be available to your pet if they seek you out, but don’t crowd them. Allow them their space and reward them for going to and settling in their den. Ignore any unwanted behaviour, don’t react to it.
  6. Using things like chews, treats, toys and LickiMats in the den help to keep pets calm and settled.
  7. Playing music or having the TV on can help to block out noise from fireworks, and many pets respond positively to relaxing music.
  8. If you are having a bonfire at home, remember to move the wood before lighting it, so that you disturb any wildlife like hedgehogs that might have crept in and they can escape.
  9. Your local veterinary clinic should be able to provide advice about how to prevent noise phobias as well as noise desensitisation programmes suitable for your pet.
  10. Sounds Scary, Sounds Sociable and Sounds Soothing are available as free downloads on the Dogs Trust website along with a guide on how to use them.
  11. Ask for guidance for any pet showing fear or anxiety towards noises/fireworks.
  12. Start desensitising puppies and kittens now, but if you already know your pets are likely to be very afraid, you might need expert guidance or medication, so consult your vet.
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