Firework night is fun for lots of us, yet for many pets it can be a stressful and dangerous time.
The animal charity Blue Cross reports a significant increase in pets bought into animal hospitals needing medication around Bonfire night, as well as pets involved in road traffic accidents having been scared by loud bangs.
Meanwhile a recent survey by the RSPCA revealed almost half our dogs (45%) display signs of fear at the sound of fireworks. Similarly, cats and other animals find this time of year extremely distressing.
Fireworks are allowed to be 120 decibels – the equivalent to a jet aircraft taking off. The RSPCA have called for this to be reduced to 97 decibels unless it is at a public display.
Fortunately, there is now a new trend for quiet or noiseless pet-friendly fireworks which are now easily available. This makes sense as animals have very acute hearing. Loud bangs and whistles may cause them actual pain in their ears, not to mention being extremely frightening for them.
Keeping your pet safe and happy during this potentially stressful season is paramount. Ignoring their fear could result in aggressive or defensive behaviour or even in a pet running away. The Blue Cross report an influx of pets bought into their rehoming centres having run away from home.
With this in mind, ensure dogs are wearing some form of easily readable identification (ID) even in the house. They should have at least a collar and tag.
Think about fitting pets with a microchip before Bonfire Night so that if they do run away they have a better chance of being quickly reunited with you.
Spot the signs your pet is stressed
Growling, barking, flattened ears, tucking their tail between their legs, cowering, lip licking and raised hair on the back of their necks.
If they are showing further signs of:
Destructiveness, aggression, licking and chewing, diarrhoea and a change in eating habits – you should talk to your vet to rule out any other underlying cause and get their advice.
Following these simple steps can help you minimise the trauma experienced by your pet.
Don’t take your pet to a fireworks display.
Don’t leave your pet alone if you feel they will be upset by the noise of fireworks.
Don’t be angry with your pet if you have to leave your home and return to find they have been destructive or soiled your house after being left. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed.
Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off, for example, outside a shop while you pop inside.
Don’t leave them in the garden or in your car.
Create a den so that there is a place your pets can feel safe. Cover the den with blankets and fill it with blankets and cushions as noise-absorbers. In the weeks before fireworks night, get your pet used to their new den and give them praise and treats for going in it.
Walk your dog during the day and keep your pet indoors in the evening.
Feed your pet before fireworks start, as if they become unsettled they may be reluctant to eat. A carbohydrate rich meal an hour or so before the fireworks are due to begin can make them feel sleepy.
Keep doors and windows shut and close dog and cat flaps.
Draw the curtains to minimise noises and flashes of light.
Play soothing sounds or have the TV or radio on as white noise to distract your pet.
Try to behave as normally as possible, dogs, will pick up on your anxiety and changes in routine
Be sensitive to your pet’s needs. Comfort your pet if it helps them to relax, or leave them alone if they withdraw. Ensure they are safe and are not likely to hurt themselves.
A new toy, chew or blanket can prove a welcome distraction and comforter.
Make sure there is somewhere your pet can hide if they want to. This could be behind furniture or in a cupboard.
Cats often feel safest high up such as on top of a wardrobe. Don’t pick up cats or restrain them when they are scared. They prefer to be in control of how they cope in a situation where they feel threatened.
You might want to consider using a cat litter tray indoors, even if you don’t usually.
Cats have better hearing than we do, so they might be able to hear fireworks going on even when we think they are finished. So wait for your cat to come out of its safe place when they are ready. Don’t try and coax them out, as this will make them more scared.
Consider leaving a shed door open to give sanctuary to stray cats who may be scared by the fireworks.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets and birds all need to be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off. These animals are easily frightened.
If your pet lives outside, such rabbits or Guinea pigs, either bring the cage inside into a quiet room, a shed or garage, or partly cover the cage with blankets to muffle loud noises. If you can’t move the cage indoors, try and turn it towards the fence to minimise flashes of light.
Ensure the animals can still see out.
Add extra bedding to the cage so the animals have something to burrow into
Longer Term Actions
If you have a particularly anxious animal, you can take actions over the longer term to prepare them for fireworks including behavioural therapy and pheromone diffusers.
Sound Therapy 4 Pets is a free therapy pack created by the Dogs Trust and vets to teach your dog to become scared of loud noises such as firework and thunder.
It is strongly advised that you attend a practical or online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical or Veterinary advice. First Aid for Life and First Aid for Pets is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. www.firstaidforlife.org.uk, www.firstaidforpets.net , www.onlinefirstaid.com