How to cope this firework season
It’s October already! Soon firework season will be upon us. Whilst enjoyable to watch, fireworks can be a great distress to our pets (and us owners who have to deal with them!). By the end of this blog you should hopefully understand why fireworks are so frightening to our pets, be able to recognise when your pet is scared and what you can do to help them through this stressful season.
Have you ever been scared by a loud bang? I think we all know the feeling! But why do we get scared? It’s because it is unexpected. Our bodies go into “fight or flight” with our hearts pounding until we realise it won’t hurt us. This is exactly the same for our pets. But unfortunately we cannot explain to them that the loud noise is a firework that will not hurt them. Instead, they become scared, they see the noise as a real threat and they are only able to calm down once all the fireworks are over – this can be a long time!
Our dogs and cats often behave differently when scared. Dogs are pack animals so often show us that they are frightened. With excessive panting, drooling, shaking, tail between their legs or toileting in the house. But they can also hide in a place they feel is safe, show aggression, destructive behaviours, or run away if there is an escape route.
Cats may show similar signs to dogs but, as they are solitary creatures, they usually resort to hiding and can be aggressive if they are disturbed. They also commonly run away, in firework season many stray cats are found. Most of these are just cats that have run away and got lost. In these cases, if cats are microchipped it is much easier to reunite the cat with the owner. So make sure your cat is microchipped before firework season in case they manage to escape.
So what can you do to help your pet(s) stay calm and safe this firework season?
- Most importantly, always keep them indoors when fireworks are being let off. If you have a dog this may mean timing walks earlier and if you have a cat it may mean adjusting their routine so they come in earlier and do not go out in the evenings. If they are indoors make sure that they cannot escape and get lost. Block off the cat flap and make sure all doors and windows are shut.
- During the displays you should not leave your pet alone at home. Check the local displays so that you know when you need to stay at home. Try to act as normally as possible and stay calm, this will encourage your pet to do the same and help them to feel more relaxed.
- If they want to hide then let them hide. If they find a place they know is safe then this is the least stressful place for them. Try not to disturb your pet if they are hiding. If they are hiding for a long period of time, put food and water just outside the hiding place. If they want attention then give it – give attention to reward calmness. You know your pet best, see what helps them to relax most and do that.
- Crate training. This can make all the difference for your dog. This creates a space for them to hide and feel safe. Ideally you would want to crate train them from a puppy but this can also be done in adult dogs. If you do not have a crate you can create a cosy place for your dog with blankets and toys in a corner or cupboard so it is more enclosed. This gives them somewhere to hide this fireworks night.
- Place a litter tray inside for your cat, especially if they usually go outside. If it is loud outside they will not want to go out to toilet. By providing an inside place to go to the toilet you reduce stress. If your pet has an accident inside the house, do NOT punish them. They are already very scared and being punished will just make it worse.
- Another thing you can try is a pheromone diffuser (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats) and plug it in at least 1 week before the fireworks start as it needs time to get to the proper concentration. This should help your pet to relax, its effects are quite variable so give it a try and see if it works for your pet.
- The risks of fireworks do not end when the display is over. The firework debris can stay hot for a long time and can cause burns. Also, metals and other toxic substances are used in fireworks to create the different colours. These are poisonous to our pets. So it is vital that you check your garden and pick up any firework debris before you let your pet back out again after the fireworks are over.
- If your pet gets very stressed during fireworks season maybe you could look into sound therapy. This involves playing a track of fireworks very quietly and turning it up gradually so that your pet no longer perceives the noises as a threat. But this needs to be started well in advance of fireworks season so maybe start thinking about this in preparation for next year!
If you are concerned or want any specific advice for your pet then give us a call, we will be more than happy to talk to you or see your pet. We try to use medication as a last resort as it does not come without side effects but we understand that it is needed in some cases!