Fireworks Fear

The clocks have gone back, the leaves are falling off the trees, and it’s Firework time again. Fireworks are a traditional way of celebrating and so we will hear plenty of them as we celebrate Bonfire Night, then Diwali, then Christmas and finally New Year.

All very bright and colourful for us, but what about our pets? Surveys of pet owners suggest that three out of four pets suffer from firework fears and noise phobias.

Dogs may tremble, pace, pant and become ‘clingy’, while cats may try to hide behind furniture, or attempt to run away. Dogs and cats may refuse to eat and may soil the house because of firework-related stress. Many’s a carpet that gets ruined when the fireworks start going off! Rabbits may freeze and remain motionless, or may panic and try to escape from their hutches.

It is worth imagining what Bonfire Night must be like for our pets – we know why there are lots of loud bangs outside, but our pets don’t, which is very distressing for them. Many of our pets have very acute hearing, so the range of sounds adding to their anxiety may also be greater than we can appreciate. The effects tend to be cumulative over time resulting in seemingly irrational and uncontrolled behaviour.

Vets surgeries across the country are inundated at this time of year with requests for treatments by owners of anxious pets.

So what can be done to help manage the problem?

In the run up to Bonfire Night-

Provide a den or hiding place, preferably within the middle of the house, where your pet can go to find peace. Provide treats and toys so that your pet sees it as a positive, attractive place. Allow free access at all times. If you have more than one cat, make sure you have a hiding place for each cat, plus one extra.

Try to ignore any fearful behaviour, as dogs may pick up on their owners’ anxiety – making the problem worse.

Make sure your pets have all been Microchipped – just in case they try to escape!

On Bonfire Night, and when fireworks are expected:-

Walk pet dogs in the daylight, before fireworks start.

Close all windows and catflaps to reduce the chance of your pet escaping.

Provide extra litter trays for cats – especially if they are not used to being confined.

Close the curtains, and put on the TV to mask the noise. Music with a repetitive beat is a good alternative.

Try not to leave your pets alone when the fireworks are going off, and try to just go about your normal business, in a calm, relaxed manner.

Do not punish your pet! This would immediately worsen their anxiety.

Braid Vets can also provide you with products and medicines that will help to relieve the stress for pets. Synthetic pheromones are available for dogs and cats, called ADAPTIL and FELIWAY, in the form of plug-in diffusers, sprays and collars and these can be introduced in the run-up to the firework season.

Capsules called CALMEX, containing a calming plant extract, and XYLKENE, a milk-protein derivative, will also help to reduce their response to fearful stimuli, in a safe and easily administered form. These can be given on a daily basis, throughout the “season”.

For more anxious pets, more than one treatment can be used together. To purchase these products, contact us at Reception.

For long term management owners should consider Sound Desensitisation. This involves behaviour modification and training, and your vet can advise you on how best to proceed. This can take weeks or months, but with time and patience it teaches noise-phobic pets that loud noises are nothing to be scared of. These evidence-based behavioural techniques can achieve excellent results to improve your pet’s quality of life. By going down this route, your pet will hopefully be able to cope with the firework stresses in subsequent years. Better for your pet, better for you – and for your carpets too!