Sadly many pets show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks, and in some cases may suffer from a severe phobia.
Signs of firework anxiety may include:
• Trembling and shaking
• Barking excessively
• Trying to run away
• Pacing and panting
• Clinging to owners
• Cowering and hiding behind furniture
• Soiling the house
• Refusing to eat
Here is some advice to help…
Two weeks in advance – create a refuge
Most dogs and cats will have a favourite room or bed, which you can modify. Some don’t know where is best to escape, and for these individuals you can create somewhere for them to hide. In these cases, choose a room which is quiet and with the minimum windows in which to create a refuge. Cats may like to hide in a cupboard or wardrobe.
• Provide lots of blankets for dogs to dig and burrow in. You may like to include an old, unwashed piece of your clothing so the dog can smell your scent.
• Close the windows and use heavy curtains to mask flashing lights.
• Provide food and water, including some treats/chews. Provide a litter tray nearby for cats.
• Install an Adaptil (dog) or Feliway (cat) diffuser close to the hiding place. These help to make the pet feel more relaxed and confident. These can be purchased from our Torquay and Paignton surgeries.
• The hiding place must be accessible at all times, and the pet must be able to come and go as they wish. Encourage your pet to use the hiding place 2-3 times a day in the run up to firework’s night. Make it a good place to go by giving them a fuss or a treat.
On the nights of fireworks
• Take your dog out to the toilet an hour before the display starts. Keep them on a lead in case there are any early noises.
• Keep your pets indoors and if possible, do not leave your pet alone.
• Try to mask the noise of fireworks with moderately loud rhythmic music. Monitor the response of your dog, this will help for some and not others.
• Make sure gates, fences, cat flaps and doors are secure, so they can’t bolt off. It is best to ensure your pet’s microchip details are up to date well in advance, just in case they escape when frightened.
• Once fireworks are heard encourage your pet to use the hiding place.
• Cats are best left alone in their hiding place.
• Don’t get cross with your dog, it will only make them more frightened.
• Soothing a dog is also not always helpful, as it gives them the impression there is something to be scared of and may even act as a reward for them being frightened.
• Reward your dog with attention and affection when they have begun to relax. Try playing games or doing training.
• If your pet is very frightened and can’t be distracted with playing, then leave them in their refuge.
Medications and supplements
In some circumstances anxiety relieving medication or supplements can be beneficial. For advice about what may help with your particular pet, speak to a member of our team or book an appointment with a veterinary surgeon.
Many dogs can be treated for noise phobia. Specially made recordings of fireworks can be used to train dogs not to react to the noises they fear. Downloads are available here.
It is also possible for the veterinary surgeon to refer you and your pet to a qualified behavioural therapist. We run a dog behaviour triage clinic in conjunction with Andrew Hale, allowing you to get immediate advice and follow up long term with Andrew to help for next year’s firework season – call us to book in or to get more information.