Our firework season takes up a large part of the year, spreading from October through until January. This time can be very scary for pets with a phobia of fireworks and can often lead to other problems such as destructive behaviour, separation anxiety, self injury and aggression if not managed correctly.
Here you will find a few simple steps to manage their fear in the short term. We do advise treating the problem, but this is best started at the end of the season - around the end of January. Contact a nurse for more information on treatment.
Firstly, prevention is always better than a cure - so if you have just acquired a puppy or kitten it is best to get them used to the types of noises they might get scared of at an early age. The Dogs Trust have teamed up with behaviourist Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen to provide us with a complete sound library of noises to expose to your pet. You can download them here for free! They come with full instructions for use, please follow them carefully.
If your pet has already showed signs of distress please follow the tips below to make them feel safe:
- Provide a den - somewhere for your pet to hide and feel safe, corners of a room, crates, behind the sofa. Look at where your pet naturally goes to feel secure and ensure they have constant access to it (especially if you are going out). It should be dark and enclosed, sound levels should be lower at this point - add blankets if necessary, provide a towel or blanket to dig and hide under. *if your dog paces up and down instead, please speak to a nurse for advice*
- Pull the curtains and close the windows - this reduces noise and light and prevents scared pets escaping
- Play music or turn on the TV (please note - only play music if your pet is used to this. If you usually put music on for pets before you go out it may cause more stress as they will think you are leaving)
- Use Adaptil & Feliway - these pheromones have been scientifically proven to calm and reassure dogs and cats. Use a diffuser in the safe area you have provided
- Give calming tablets - Nutracalm is specifically formulated to naturally calm anxious pets and to help reduce unwanted behaviour
- Ensure pets are microchipped and secure indoors
- Avoid walking when it is dark as early fireworks could go off
- Do not comfort your pet! As hard as this seems 'comforting' them will only reinforce their scared behaviour. They may also become dependent on you as a coping strategy and may be unable to deal with the stress alone if you are out and unexpected fireworks go off
- Do not punish fearful behaviour. This can again worsen the problem
So what do I do if I can't comfort my pet? Act happy and normal. Look like you are having fun! Dogs especially will pick up on how you feel.
Focus on recovery - Reward your pet when they come out of their safe zone and start interacting normally.
Some dogs and cats may need some stronger medication. If you feel that is the case for your pet, please speak to a member of our team.