Autumn is an exciting time of year packed with cosy seasonal celebrations across the UK, with Bonfire Night being a firm family favourite. Amongst the celebrations however, pet owners must be aware how fireworks can affect their pet. We have developed a handy infographic with top tips for you to help ensure your pets’ safety and wellbeing throughout the firework season, which you can download for free here, and read on for some more.
Source: Your Dog
What may seem like a standard fireworks evening to you and the kids can instead feel like a very scary environment for your pet. For example, it’s estimated that around half of dogs in the UK show signs of fear and restlessness when they hear fireworks. It is normal for them to feel restless and unsettled during these events, and such symptoms of their distress include whining, shaking, hiding, salivating, pacing and refusing to consume their food or drink.
Moreover, the noise of fireworks can physically hurt pets, damaging their overtly sensitive hearing. In cats for example, loud noises such as fireworks affects the tiny muscles in their ears which contract to reduce sound transmission and protect the inner ear. When the muscles don’t have time to contract and provide protection due to the sharp sounds, this repeated exposure can result in noise trauma or hearing loss. It’s important for pet owners to be aware of these symptoms and take extra precautions to calm and comfort their pet, and make them aware that they are not in danger.
Top Tips from Pet Health Information:
Move small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs indoors. Perhaps lock the cat flap during the evening.
Whatever your pet, it is important that you keep them indoors while fireworks are taking place. Owners with rabbits and other small animals living in hutches outside should move their pets inside the house, and if this is not possible, move the hutch to a shed, garage or conservatory. If the animals are indoor pets, owners can cover the front of the cage or hutch to ensure the pets are not startled by the sporadic lights from the fireworks, whilst also making their living space slightly more soundproofed.
Owners of cats and dogs must also take extra precautions to keep their pets close. The sharp, startling noises which fireworks create can often cause pets to become anxious, and perhaps dash out of the house if they can. This means it is important to ensure that you keep a close eye on your pet at all times, and lock doors and cat flaps to ensure they cannot escape into the night. If you must take dogs out, take them on the lead so you are by their side. In preparation, it is always best to microchip your pets just in case they do escape on these evenings.
CREATE A SAFE HAVEN
Make sure your dog or cat has a comfortable place to go. Let them go and hide if they want to.
Pet owners can prepare for Bonfire night by ensuring their pet has extra comfy bedding in ‘safe haven’.
When creating a ‘safe haven’ in the home, pet owners can try to build positive associations with the zone, and the sound of fireworks before the events. Your Dog suggests utilising music or films with explosion or firework sounds throughout such as on action films can help your pets get used to these types of sharp sounds. You can build a positive association with the sounds by playing the music or films whilst stroking them, feeding them treats, or playing, gradually increasing the volume as your pet gets used to the sounds.
Placing a box or crate in which pets can burrow into with extra blankets and their favourite treats can be another useful way of helping them feel they have a safe escape. In the run up to Bonfire night, try and create as many positive associations to the room as possible e.g. feed them in there, play, and make sure it is warm. This way, they will see this room as a safe haven and place to hide from the noise. The RSPCA have also published some top tips on how to keep your pets safe throughout these events and how to build a 'Doggy Safe Den' in this video.
For pet owners with small animals such as gerbils, rabbits or guinea pigs should provide extra bedding to help relieve their pets’ anxiety during the events. This gives them more space to burrow away from the sounds. As the Blue Cross notes, rabbits are very social animals so keeping them alongside a familiar companion can reduce the stress of firework phobia.
BLOCK IT OUT
Shut curtains and have some background noise – music or TV at normal volume is fine.
Your ‘safe haven’ should ideally be a room without any windows, but if this is not possible, draw the curtains to shield your pet from the sporadic lights caused by the fireworks.
Placing a TV or stereo in the room playing classical music or the ‘action’ films/ soundtrack with loud noises that they have become accustomed to can act as a distraction for your pets in the retreat zone.
Pet owners can also try making fun activities for their pets to do indoors such as agility training and obstacle courses, during which you can reward them with treats.
Even if your pet is distressed, keep calm yourself. Your pet will sense if you are worried.
The way you handle your pet during the events can influence their stress levels. If you act calm and reassured, your pet will also feel much calmer. One simple way to ensure you can stay calm for the events is to make sure you feel prepared. As Your Dog suggests, you can take the simple precaution of knowing when and where your local council is holding fireworks displays, and make arrangements accordingly. Asking your neighbours whether they are planning any fireworks celebrations is another simple way of making sure the fireworks are not a surprise to you, and in turn, your pet.
For some more tips on how to distract and keep your pet calm during these events, visit our site here.
TALK TO AN EXPERT
Your vet or pet care adviser can help you with products to help your pet cope with stress and anxiety.
If you strongly anticipate that firework night is going to be a traumatic event for your pet, talking to your vet about the best ways you can relieve your pets’ anxiety is recommended. There are some pet products on the market which can help calm pets during the events such as an anti-anxiety wrap or vest for your dog. The gentle pressure of the wrap can be comforting for your dog, relieving restlessness and symptoms such as shaking, panting and whining.
By following these simple precautions, we can help make sure our pets feel safe and secure throughout these autumnal events and beyond. For more tips on how to care for your pets’ health and wellbeing, all year round, visit http://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/