Dogs and many other pets can get very stressed and anxious by the sounds, sights and smells of fireworks. It’s not just at bonfire night that your fur baby is affected – New Year, Halloween, Christmas, Summer seasonal shows or neighbourhood displays mean it can be all year.
With our Dogs, Pets & Fireworks – how to keep them calm blog, Julia Roy reveals tips to help your pets before, during and after the fireworks.
If you are lucky enough to welcome a puppy or kitten into your home, you can desensitise them to the sounds of fireworks early on. See Kent’s editor’s family did just that. “We rescued an older dog who was so scared of the fireworks that we would have to drive around to find somewhere quiet over fireworks night as she was so stressed out.”
A younger pet can be the best time to get them used to firework sounds. Play noises in stages and from quiet to loud over time. See Kent’s owner says, “My daughter was so brilliant and spent a lot of time building up on the sounds with our rescue puppy. I was a little sceptical as our previous dog had been so reactive, that I couldn’t imagine how it could work, but it did the trick.”
TREATS & TRICKS
If your pet is a sufferer and shakes at the sounds of fireworks, then try distracting them with treat hunts and games. Use toys and treats to help divert their attention – but make sure you prepare them for this beforehand. If they are out of the puppy stage and no longer so toy-focused, suddenly getting out a toy on say fireworks night and expecting them to play may not work. You need to create time to introduce or reintroduce games before the fireworks season. When you start throwing that ball indoors, you don’t them to look confused as you are not in the park!
Also, according to RSPCA, creating a safe haven in one of the quietest and least busy areas in your home is a great idea. Get them acclimatised to the space, and do not invade it – this is their space. Rotate a variety of chew toys so they don’t get bored. Playing relaxing music can also help create a safe and happy environment.
If you are pre-warned of fireworks, walk dogs early, and try to keep cats in. If they are used to a cat flat, set up a cat tray a few days in advance if you can. Stress for dogs and fireworks, plus other pets too, can be reduced.
TELL TELL SIGNS
Each pet is different, and with some, it can be difficult to see when they are distressed. It may be that they go quiet, start to bark, or cling a little more. Some may pant excessively or drool or lip-lick, says the Dogs Trust. In some cases, they may try to hide or escape, and some tremble and shake, or pace and even have dilated pupils. The Dogs Trust advises that as soon as you realise they show signs of fear by loud sounds, speak to a vet in case it is not related to medical problems. They can also refer you to a behaviourist and advise on additional treatments like medication.
WHEN IT BANGS
If possible, try not to leave them alone if you think there will be fireworks. To help dogs and fireworks be less stressful, try to make the house a safe zone, along with their quiet area. Close dog and cat flaps, all windows and doors, draw the curtains and try to use TV or music sounds to block out the noise, advises The Blue Cross. If your pet hides in a corner, do not try to coax them out – they’re just trying to find safety and should not be disturbed. Pet them if they want it, but try to let them show you what they want – be led by your animal for a change!
KEEP CALM & CARRY ON
As the pet owner, you need to stay calm and act normally – this can be hard when you see your beloved pet in distress. “My cat screamed not meowed when she first heard fireworks and, it was so hard, ” says Sarah, owner of Belle. “I found I was freaking out, and we were both getting stressed.” Belle is now four years old and gets a lot less upset. ” I read that she could pick up on my stress, so I don’t react to the sounds, and put the TV on and sit with her. She is a lot less nervous now,” says Sarah. It can help some animals relax more if they think you are not worried about what is happening and behave as if nothing is out of the ordinary.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Keep the family involved. Children can help with coping with pets’ stress. However, do bear in mind that each child is different; if they get too distressed while the pet is frightened, or they pet them too much, however well-intentioned, then keep them apart. If they are calm then children can be great at keeping the family pet less upset. Having family members around also helps reinforce to the pet that everything is normal despite the strange and scary sensations.
NOT JUST A DOG STORY
It is not just dogs and cats that get stressed, many other animals get stressed by fireworks. Small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets and birds can be affected, says The Blue Cross, and need to be considered too. The best practice is to take hutches, cages and enclosures into a quiet room inside, or a garage or shed, with extra bedding. If you cannot take them inside, turn their hutch around so it’s facing something like a wall or a shed. Cover aviaries or hutches with thick blankets that will block out the flashes, and reduce the loud sounds. However, make sure there is enough ventilation, advises The Blue Cross. Stable horses, and remove any hay nets and buckets the horse could get tangled up in if spooked. According to The Blue Cross, also make sure they have a deep bed to stop them slipping if startled.
TIME TO RECOVER
It is not over as soon as the fireworks stop though. Pets need time to recover and destress. Stay with them, and give them time to recover from the stress. It can take them a long time to feel calmer, so relax with them for as long as possible.
FUTURE LAW CHANGES
To ensure a less stressful future for dogs and fireworks, plus other pets, the RSPCA is looking for legal reforms for fireworks. To help pets and animals, the RSPCA want changes in fireworks regulations. Statistics show that 64% were animals impacted by private at home backyard displays, 92% didn’t have prior notice of fireworks displays nearby, and 14% were animals in distress as a result of antisocial behaviour. Changes the RSPCA calls for include the limit of the sale and use of fireworks and advance notice of displays. They also want firework control zones to protect vulnerable individuals and animals and reduce maximum permitted noise levels.
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Picture Credit: Top to bottom: Tracey Hocking and Darinka Kievskaya at unsplash.com, Samson Katt, PNW Production Tima Miroshnichenko, Tatiana Zatskaya and Samson Katt at Pexels.com
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