Pets and fireworks

fireworksFireworks are used to celebrate all kinds of occasions and around this time of year we have two major events, Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve. Although we may find fireworks entertaining many of our pets are frightened by them. One piece of research carried out by a pharmaceutical company discovered that at least 80% of animals are scared by fireworks. This means for many people and animals it is not a time of fun but a time of stress.

Signs of ‘firework fear’ or the phobia of loud noises can range from mild behavioural changes to severe destructive behaviour. Signs that indicate that your pet is fearful could include:

  • Hiding away
  • Pacing/inability to settle
  • Seeking human attention
  • Whining/barking/vocalising
  • Destructive behaviour

Planning ahead can help your pets cope with the firework season. Follow these top tips to make firework celebrations less frightening for your pet:

  • Make sure your dog or cat always has somewhere to hide if he or she wants to and has access to this place at all times. For example, this could be under some furniture or in a cupboard.
  • During firework seasons, walk dogs during daylight hours and keep cats and dogs indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off.
  • At nightfall close windows and curtains and put on music to mask and muffle the sound of fireworks.
  • If your pet shows any signs of fear, try to ignore their behaviour. You may inadvertently reward anxious behaviour if you try to console your pet and may even make the behaviour worse. So leave them alone unless they are likely to harm themselves.
  • Never punish or fuss over your pet when it is scared as this will may also make things worse in the long run.
  • Make sure your cat or dog is always kept in a safe and secure environment and can’t escape if there’s a sudden noise and have your pet microchipped in case they do escape.
  • Don’t forget about your other furry friends! If you have pets that live outside, partly cover cages, pens and aviaries with blankets so that one area is well sound-proofed and provide lots of extra bedding so your pet has something to burrow in.

In addition, talk to your vet (e-mail us) about other things that can help such as pheromone diffusers which emit a natural appeasing pheromone. These products are available for cats and dogs and have been proven to comfort and reassure animals and help them cope with stressful situations. Desensitisation sound CDs can also be used in conjunction with pheromone therapy to treat fear of fireworks in dogs and natural sedatives can be beneficial for more severe cases.

However, management of phobias is not enough; as with any other chronic, degenerative condition it is essential that the phobia is treated. Fears and phobias may be managed on a short-term basis, but once the firework season, or other period of phobic exposure, comes to an end it is important to treat the problem so that it is less severe in the future.

Long-term management can be achieved with behavioural therapy, sometimes combined with medication or pheromones. Discuss the appropriate options available for you and your pet with your local vet or behaviourist.

At our clinics, we sell Adaptil, Feliway and Zyklene. These are the perfect things to help take away the stress of fireworks as well as helping puppies settle into a new home. Contact us if you would like more information. Our numbers are:

Teddington: 0208 977 3955

Shepperton: 01932 229 900

Surbiton: 0208 390 5270

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Vet4life

Veterinary Surgeon at Vet4life
Ian Stroud is a highly experienced small animal veterinary surgeon with over 15 years working in practice. He has particular interests in several areas including minimally-invasive surgery, orthopaedics and oncology (cancer treatment). He currently practices in Teddington, Shepperton and Surbiton where he is the director of Vet4life.
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