Posted 4 October 2014 by Rachael Millar
With firework season fast approaching, now’s the time to think about how your pet will cope with the loud bangs and flashes. Blue Cross animal hospitals across the country see a rise in the number of pets needing medication during stressful times, and many animals are brought to our rehoming centres having run away from home.
Bonfire night can be a frightening time for all pets, big and small, but there are things you can do to keep them safe and calm during the bright and noisy evenings:
Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, gerbils, ferrets, other smallies and birds should all be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off.
Hutches and cages should be brought into a quiet room indoors, or placed in a garage or shed. If you are unable to bring your pet’s home inside, turn their enclosure to face the wall or fence instead of the open garden.
Cover aviaries and hutches with thick blankets or a duvet to block out the flashes and minimise the bangs, but make sure there is enough ventilation. Give your pet extra bedding during firework season so they can burrow down and feel safe.
Always keep your dog indoors when fireworks are being let off. It’s a good idea to time walks earlier in the day before the fireworks start. Keep your dog on-lead if you think fireworks will be let off.
Make sure your dog is microchipped and your information is up to date so your dog can be returned to you if they are spooked by fireworks and run off. By law your dog should be wearing an ID tag with the owner’s name and address displayed when they are in a public place, too. If your phone number is easily readable you will have a better chance of being reunited quickly.
Switching the TV or radio on might help to muffle the sound, but make sure it’s not too loud and don’t try this if your dog isn’t used to noises from the television.
Let your dog pace around, whine and hide in a corner if he wants to. Once your dog has found his safe space try not to disturb him. Dogs may like to hide in a den where they can feel safe and comfortable when loud noises are all around. This could be under your bed or behind the sofa. Placing some of your clothes there might help to keep your pet calm.
Although it’s difficult when it’s obvious your pet is stressed, try not to cuddle distressed pets. If your dog thinks you are worried too it may make the problem worse. Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour.
It goes without saying that you should never shout at your pet. If you have to leave your house during firework season and return to find your dog has been destructive, don’t get angry with them. Reprimanding your dog will only make him more stressed.
Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off, ie outside a shop while you pop inside, or leave him in the garden or alone in the car. It’s never a good idea to take your dog to a firework display. Even if they don’t whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean they are happy. Panting and yawning are both signs that indicate your dog is stressed.
Ask your vet if you feel you need to take further steps. They can provide dog appeasing pheromones which have a calming effect. Sound therapy can also help but needs to begin well before fireworks season begins. Contact your vet for further advice.
Make sure your cat stays inside at night during firework season. If your cat is used to going outside, provide a litter tray.
Make sure your cat has a microchip and your contact details are up to date so your pet can be reunited with you if they become spooked and get lost. Block off cat flaps to stop them from getting outside and to help muffle the sound of bangs and zips.
Again, you can help to block out the noise of fireworks by switching on the TV or radio, if your cat is already used to the sound, but make sure it’s not too loud.
Let your cat pace around inside your home and miaow if they want to. If your cat finds a den to hide in, for example under the bed, don’t try to coax them out – your cat is trying to find safety and shouldn’t be disturbed.
If your pet senses you are worried, they might worry too, so try not to cuddle your cat if they are distressed as it may make their behaviour worse. Instead, stay relaxed, act normally, and given them lots of praise for being calm.
Make sure fireworks are never set off near your horse’s field or stable. Tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure fireworks are set off well away from them. Anyone planning a display in a rural area should let neighbouring farmers know in advance.
Your horse will cope best in a familiar environment, and keeping to his or her normal routine and with any usual companions, during firework season. If your horse is usually stabled, then keep them stabled. If they are normally outside in the field, keep them there as long as the field is safe, secure, and away from firework display areas.
If you know fireworks will be set off near your horse, make sure you or someone experienced stays with them. This way you can observe your horse’s behaviour and make sure they stay safe and as calm as possible. It also means that you can react quickly if your horse becomes upset.
Try to remain calm and positive throughout any displays, as horses can sense unease in people and if you are worried your horse’s fear may worsen.
If your horse doesn’t like loud or sudden noises or has become worried by fireworks in the past, speak with your vet before firework season begins or consider moving them for the night.
Be careful yourself. Try not to get in the way if your horse becomes startled as you might get hurt. Never run the risk of riding when you think fireworks might be set off. If you need to leave your horse in another person’s care during a firework show, leave clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet in case of any problems.
If you think your pet will struggle to cope with the fireworks season, try to speak to your vet six to 12 weeks beforehand.
Do your research. Find out if there are any firework displays planned nearby and when they are on. Ask neighbours to let you know if and when they will be letting off fireworks so you can be prepared.
Fireworks are poisonous if chewed, so make sure your pet stays away from them.
Rachael Millar is the Blue Cross Editor and writes features for the charity’s publications as well as online news and blogs. She’s written about animal welfare for many years and loves meeting the pets who come through Blue Cross’s doors.
Member since: 10th July 2012
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