As the excitement of fireworks season approaches, it’s a bittersweet time for pet owners. The vivid displays that light up the night sky can cause a whirlwind of stress for our furry companions.
Thankfully these days some people are starting to recognise how scary fireworks can be, not only to our pets but to wildlife, and silent fireworks are now available.
However you should expect that traditional fireworks will be used and it is always good to plan ahead.
The loud bangs and unexpected flashes of light are not only startling but can be terrifying for our pets. As doting pet parents, it’s our job to ensure they feel safe and secure during this time. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you prepare.
Recognising Anxiety in Your Pet
Being able to tell when your pet is stressed is the first step towards helping them. Here are some common signs of anxiety you might notice:
- Shaking or Trembling: It's natural for pets to shake or tremble when they are frightened. If you notice your pet doing this when the fireworks start, it's a sign they are highly anxious.
- Excessive Panting: Dogs that are stressed can pant and pace - if your dog starts to do this during fireworks, it's a sure sign of stress.
- Increased Vocalisation: If your dog or cat is making more noise than usual like barking or meowing, it’s likely because they are scared or anxious.
- Seeking Refuge: Pets will look for a safe place to hide when they are scared. They might hide under the bed or in a corner when the fireworks are going off. In extreme cases, they may try and climb behind furniture such as cupboards.
- Clinginess: If your pet is more clingy than usual, it’s because they are seeking comfort from the scary noises outside.
- Accidents Indoors: Even well-trained pets might have accidents indoors when they are scared.
- Destructive Behaviour: Pets might chew on furniture or scratch at doors when they are anxious. It's their way of coping with stress.
Understanding these signs of anxiety helps you to provide the necessary comfort and care for your pet during this time.
Preparing Your Home
Creating a comfortable and safe environment at home is crucial for keeping your pet calm during fireworks season. Here are some steps you can follow:
1. Create a Pet Den:
- Choose a quiet spot in your home away from the noise. Add some comfy bedding, their favourite toys, and keep fresh water and food bowls handy. This setup will provide a sense of security and familiarity for your pet.
- It's important to allow your pet to move freely in and out of this space. Forcing them to stay in one place can increase their anxiety.
Check out this video on how to create a den out of a cardboard box and some old blankets. You can also use a table.
2. Provide Hiding Spots:
- Pets often seek shelter in enclosed spaces when frightened. Make sure there are enough safe spots like under the bed or behind the sofa where they can hide.
3. Walk Your Dog Before Dusk:
- Taking your dog for a walk before the fireworks start can help burn off excess energy, which might help them to relax. There is also less likelihood that fireworks will be set off during daylight hours.
4. Check Your Garden:
- Ensure your garden is secure to prevent your pet from escaping if they get spooked by the fireworks.
5. Close the Curtains:
- Closing the curtains can help to block out the flashes of light and muffle the sound of the fireworks.
6. TV or Radio On:
- Turning on the TV or radio can provide background noise that drowns out the frightening sound of fireworks.
7. Go Potty:
- If you can encourage your dog to go for a wee before the fireworks start, it will mean they don't need to go out when things are at their most scary.
8. Act Normal:
- Try and stick to your normal routine as much as possible, and remain upbeat with your pet. Pets are really attuned to our emotions so if you act as though you're worried, your pet will pick up on this.
9. Consider a Calming Wrap:
- Some dogs are comforted by wearing a calming wrap such as a Thundershirt. These fit snugly around your dog and can help them. Be aware that they do not work for every dog, so it is worth trying to find a behaviourist or even a friend who can lend you one first to see if it seems to help.
10. Don't leave your pet alone:
- Ideally, you should try and make sure you are at home with your pets for firework night. After all, you are their guardian! If you really must go out, then ask someone they know to come and sit with them.
Engaging and Distracting Your Pet
Keeping your pet distracted can also help to keep their mind off the scary noises outside. Here are some suggestions:
1. Interactive Toys:
- Toys like Kongs, lickimats, or snuffle mats filled with treats can keep your pet busy and distracted from the noise outside.
- Engaging your pet in their favourite games or play activities can also help distract them from the fireworks.
A Soothing Touch
Providing physical comfort can be very reassuring for your pet.
1. Ear Massages:
- Gently massaging your pet’s ears can actually help to calm them down. The ears have many acupressure points, and a gentle massage can provide a soothing effect. Use slow, gentle strokes, working from the base of the ear up to the tip. If your pet doesn't seem to like it and moves away, then don't force it.
Preparing for the WorstIt's always good to prepare for the worst-case scenario to ensure the safety of your pet.
1. Check the Microchip:
- Ensuring that your pet’s microchip details are up-to-date is crucial. In the event that your pet gets scared and runs away, updated microchip details will help reunite you with your pet sooner.
2. Consult a Veterinarian:
- If your pet has severe anxiety, it's advisable to consult with a vet. They might recommend medication or behavioural therapy to help manage the anxiety.
Special Care for Smaller Pets
Small pets like rabbits or guinea pigs are also affected by the loud noises from fireworks and need special care.
1. Bring Them Indoors:
- Bringing smaller pets indoors can help provide a sense of safety and muffle the loud noises from the fireworks.
2. Provide Extra Bedding:
- Extra bedding will allow them to burrow and feel secure.
The fireworks season, while a celebration for us, can be a frightening time for our pets. With a little preparation and understanding, we can help ensure our furry family members feel safe and comfortable during the fireworks season.
This detailed guide provides a roadmap for pet owners to follow, making the fireworks season a less stressful time for our beloved pets.