fireworks night: Tips for calming an anxious pet
Fireworks night can be horribly stressful if you have a pet who is easily spooked, and in many areas the use of fireworks can last a few weeks, from Halloween to mid-November. We asked our veterinary nurse Mel for her top tips on preparing for and getting through the fireworks 'season'...
Prepare everything well in advance of bonfire night/weekend. Otherwise you may cause unnecessary added stress for your pet.
Make sure your pet has a ‘safe’ area. Cats and dogs like to have the option of retreating to a small, confined area to help them feel safe. This can be in the form of a crate (with the door left open at all times), a den made from suspending old sheets/blankets or a cardboard box for smaller dogs or cats.
The safe area should be comfortable and cosy in a place the animal is used to spending time. You may need to set up more than one ‘safe space’ of you have a particularly nervous cat or dog who normally roams the house.
Make sure the area is comfortable and inviting before the fireworks begin. Hide treats in and around the area to help the animal feel relaxed around the space.
On fireworks night, ensure all windows and doors are kept shut to prevent accidental escape if your pet feels frightened. Keep curtains and blinds shut to help prevent bright flashes.
Try not to leave your pet alone on fireworks night especially if they have been terrified in previous years.
Fill KONG ™ or treat toys with our pouches or tins to provide a tasty, long lasting treat for the pet to have on fireworks night. This will hopefully keep them fully occupied. You could even fill the toys the day before and freeze over night for an extra-long lasting ‘slow release’ treat. Raw meaty bones can also be a good distraction during the bangs! Make sure you give the treat BEFORE the fireworks start, otherwise your pet may already be too scared to eat.
If you want to use calming medication, collars, diffusers or sprays, ensure you use these at least a week before the event, during, and then at least a week after to help the animal feel calm and relaxed during the entire stressful period.
Do NOT use strong sedative medications as this can cause increased stress to the animal. These impair the animal by making them feel they cannot move away from the scary noise which can in fact make the problem worse in years to come. Speak to your vet or a behaviourist about this if you are concerned.
Go about your normal routine during the fireworks. Make sure the TV or radio is on to help blur the noise of the bangs.
Do not shout or get angry at your pet for barking, whining or whimpering when fireworks are going off. This will only increase stress levels and can cause significant damage for future stressful events. Offer comfort to them in a calm, quiet, reassuring manner. Some pets simply need an owners hand placed on their body to help comfort them.
Try a ‘thunder shirt’ or a tight fitting t-shirt for dogs, as this has been demonstrated to have a calming effect on some animals.
Good luck and we hope you have a happy, stress free fireworks night!