PDSA’s latest PAW Report found that nearly a quarter (23%) of dog owners reported their dogs are scared of fireworks*. This equates to millions of dogs suffering every year when fireworks season begins. While Covid-19 means most large Bonfire Night events won’t be going ahead this year, there’s a chance more people will be setting off their own garden fireworks which may mean loud bangs that are closer to your pets than the past.
PDSA Vet, Lynne James, said: “With fireworks so readily available these days and limited opportunity to attend an organised event, there’s a chance this year that more people will be doing their own displays. This could mean stressful weeks ahead for owners of pets with firework phobias. Fearful reactions can include extreme anxiety, freezing with fear, hiding, destroying furniture or soiling in the house and some pets could even get injured when trying to run away.”
To help reduce this stress, here are PDSA’s top tips on helping pets through fireworks night:
· Start preparing early – if you know your pet has previously struggled with loud noises or fireworks it’s best to contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.
· Get your pet microchipped, and make sure your details are up-to-date, so if they do panic and run away you’re more likely to be reunited.
· Walk your dog earlier in the day and encourage your cat to stay home before fireworks start.
· Move rabbits and guinea pigs inside or cover their cage with blankets.
· Keep doors, windows, cat flaps and curtains closed and secure.
· Make a den for your pet, somewhere they feel safe and can hide if they want to. If your pet does hide don’t try to coax them out as this is their way of coping, stay nearby so they know you are there.
· Playing gentle music or ‘white noise’ can help to mask sounds.
· Try a pheromone diffuser which can help to keep pets calm.
· Stay calm yourself – keeping your tone, mood and behaviour as normal as possible will help to reassure them. If you get very anxious or start acting differently, this can strengthen the perception that there is something to be afraid of.
· If your pet usually seeks reassurance from you then comfort them as you normally would. This is a short term fix though, so if your pet is very anxious it’s important to find more long term solutions to help them cope with the help of your vet and an accredited behaviourist.
· Never punish your pet – this just adds to their anxiety and can make things worse.
Lynne continued: “Pets have extremely sensitive hearing, so what seems loud to us can be even worse for our pets. Plus they don’t understand what’s causing the loud bangs and flashes, adding to their stress. If your pet has a rough time this Bonfire Night then get help now to prepare them in time for New Year.”
A young pet’s first experience of fireworks can be crucial – a positive first encounter can prevent a lifetime of fear. Visit PDSA’s website for more information and advice:www.pdsa.org.uk/fireworksready.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information: www.pdsa.org.uk/appeal.