As we approach Halloween and Bonfire Night, fireworks tend to play a large part in the festivities that people participate in.
Further to my Fireworks Anxiety (dogs) post from 2014, as a lot of pets are scared of fireworks, here are some tips to help them through it.
• Long Term: it is good practise to try and desensitise your dog to the loud bangs, so that thunder and fireworks are not too much of an issue.
With my two, from being small pups, I played thunder and fireworks videos on YouTube at a low volume to get them used to the noises. Over time I increased the volume (as real thunder and fireworks are loud!) to continue the desensitising. I would play with my pups or practise tricks and reward with treats – doing something positive and enjoyable to help my pups not be bothered by the noises going on.
Gradually, over time, working with your dog to desensitise them to loud noises, can help them to have a positive association to these sounds (such as thunder and fireworks) with, instead of evoking a negative and often fearful response.
• During: some things you can do for your dog whilst the fireworks are going off in your neighbourhood to help them feel more relaxed…
– Use an anti-anxiety plug in diffuser or calming collar. These use calming pheromones to help calm your dog. The ones I’ve used in the past (in other circumstances) have been Adaptil products, but there are other brands on the market.
– Ensure your dog has a safe space; a quiet, secure, covered area to retreat to, should they need it. A crate (door left open) or table covered with a blanket or towel, with blankets and favourite toys inside can be a place of comfort for your dog to go to if the fireworks get too much for them.
If you are able to provide multiple safe spaces within your home, this will give your dog options – they may feel less stress and anxiety in one area of the house, so giving multiple safe spaces gives your dog the choice of where to retreat to, where they feel safest.
– Do not take your dog outside whilst fireworks are going off as this will only add to their anxiety. Ensure you have taken them for walkies and let them out for the toilet before fireworks are due to go off, which usually means taking them out before dark.
– Close your blinds/ curtains; it’s not just the noise of fireworks that can frighten your dog – the flashing lights can also upset them. Blocking out the sight of the fireworks should help.
– If your dog is content to have a chew toy/ treat or to engage in play, this is a good way to distract them from what’s going on outside.
– If your dog has severe anxiety, speak to your vet as they may require medication to help them through the firework season. Ask your vet to refer you to a behaviourist to work on this long term.
– As with dogs, keep cats inside whilst the fireworks are going off. If your cat is an outdoor cat, ensure to provide a litter tray whilst they are indoors.
– Do not confine your cat to one room/ area as they may injure themselves trying to escape.
– Block off/ lock cat flaps and ensure your doors and windows are secure to prevent your cat from getting out.
– Do create a safe hiding place for your cat; somewhere they can retreat to if they need to.
– If your cat is happy to be distracted with play, do spend time playing with your cat to ease their anxiety.
– Feliway or other branded pheromone products can also be used to help relax your cat.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
– If they usually live outside in a hutch, it’s a good idea to bring the hutch inside, or put your pets in an inside enclosure, whilst fireworks are going on outside.
– Ensure windows and doors are closed. Ensure curtains and blinds are closed. This will help dampen the noise.
– Adding extra bedding in the hutch or indoor enclosure will also help to dampen to noise, and provides a safe area to snuggle in if they get scared.
– Monitor their behaviour and seek veterinary assistance if necessary. If a rabbit or guinea pig is severely anxious they may stop eating, chew their cage, freeze, pull their fur out, or perform other anxious behaviour.
Summary: All Pets
– Need a safe space away from the fireworks.
– Need to be monitored. Any extreme behavioural changes should be noted and your vet contacted.
– Need to be secure, indoors with windows and doors securely closed. Curtains and blinds should also be closed.
– Avoid having your pets outside with you if you are doing or attending firework displays.
All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.
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