This is the time of year many pet owners dread. The loud bangs from fireworks can turn your happy pets into quivering wrecks. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe this Bonfire Night.
Find out when displays are going to happen
Not everyone sets fireworks off on the 5th of November. These days, from Halloween onwards, it feels like there is a constant stream of fireworks until New Year and it’s worth contacting your local council to find out when displays are being held. Similarly, it’s beneficial to ask your neighbours if they are planning to have their own celebrations with fireworks. If you know what nights the fireworks are being held, you can make plans for your pets.
Create a den
A safe haven at home will help your pet feel secure. Get them used to a crate, or enclosed area weeks before the fireworks start. Put their bed in the den or crate, and cover the top with a large blanket to make it dark. Place the crate away from windows and walls, if possible and add extra blankets inside the crate so they can burrow. Give them tasty treats in the crate, or use a Kong or similar toy that can be filled with food if your dog likes it. These types of toys are good, as chewing can release endorphins to relax your dog, and the food will keep their attention. Close the curtains and put the radio on to help muffle the noise of the bangs.
Some dogs respond well to a Thundershirt which are proven to help reduce anxiety. They work almost like a safety blanket by applying pressure along the dog’s back and sides. Of course for it to work efficiently it must be fitted correctly and it’s worth taking the time to get your dog used to it before fireworks night when they are nice and calm. You can even put it in your laundry basket to give the shirt a more familiar smell and spray it with Adaptil to aid in calming them. Use lots of positive reinforcement when your dog is wearing their Thundershirt, such as treats and praise so your dog knows wearing this is a good thing and not something to fear.
Exercise dogs as early as possible
Being out in the dark, with fireworks going off all around can terrify dogs. Walk them when it’s still daylight as burning off energy before the fireworks start will help them feel calmer. Get your dogs thinking too – Training before fireworks will help them feel mentally tired (click here for some good brain games!). Feed them earlier, as lots of dogs won’t eat if they are scared. Make sure their last toilet break is before dark – you can always let them out earlier the next morning. Plus, animals will drink more if they are stressed, so make sure all water bowls are topped up.
Keep outdoor cats inside
Loud bangs can scare cats, and many go missing around this time of year. A startled cat could bolt into the road, which could mean disaster. Keep their cat flap locked, put down a litter tray and keep the curtains and windows closed in the evening.
Cover outside animals up
Just like dogs and cats, rabbits and aviary birds can also be scared of the fireworks. If you are unable to bring outside animals in, feed them earlier and cover the hutch or aviary with a blanket to muffle the noises. If possible, you can turn the hutch around to face a wall, however, please make sure there is still sufficient airflow if the housing is covered, or facing a wall. Give them extra straw bedding to allow them to take shelter if they want to.
Make sure your pet is wearing an ID tag, and their microchip details are up to date
Ensure your pet is wearing a securely fitted collar, with an ID tag displaying your contact details. Don’t forget, collars can fall off, so make sure their microchip details are up to date too. Should your pet go missing, up to date contact details give you the best chance of getting reunited.
Avoid leaving your pet if they are affected by fireworks
Frightened animals can behave differently from normal. Just because your dog can be left whilst you go out, doesn’t mean they will be OK with fireworks going off. Some animals will panic and pace, others will want to hide away. Let them do what they want to, but check on them to ensure they are safe and don’t force them to come out of hiding if they don’t want to. Stay calm and act as normally as possible and please don’t tell your pet off for being scared.
Never take your dog to a firework display
A barking and whimpering dog doesn’t mean it’s happy or excited. Yawning and excessive panting are all signs of stress, and should your dog slip its collar in fear, it could become lost or injured. Keep your pets safely at home. If you have to go out, ask a familiar person to come over to keep them company.
Talk to your vet if your pet gets really stressed
There are options if your pet becomes very unhappy during fireworks. Products such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil diffusers for dogs can have a calming effect on them, as they release pheromones that can calm your pet (they also make adaptil sprays and collars). Pet remedy also has a range of natural sprays and diffusers that can help calm all species. They even have atomisers!
There are also behavioural training options, which you can discuss with your vet who may be able to refer you to a dog trainer. See your vet before the 5th of November so you can have a plan of action in place.
With these tips, hopefully, you and your pets will be able to have a nice, calm evening.
What’s your pet like with fireworks? Let me know in the comments below.
Click here to read how you can keep your pets safe at Christmas.