Holidays are a cause for celebration. Guy Fawkes Night, New Year’s Eve and other calendar dates of significance are great excuses to gather round family and friends for a party, a BBQ, a night out, a bonfire, and for many people, some fireworks. While fireworks may be a great experience for us humans, we often forget how our pets can react to sudden, unexplained, loud noises and bright lights. Animals of all kinds, including dogs, cats, and livestock, often become very frightened in response to fireworks. This may lead them to panic, run away, get lost, injure themselves, or could lead to destructive behaviour inside your home. While we may not be able to explain to our furry friends what’s going on, there are some strategies that we can implement to ensure our pets have a more positive experience.
If you can anticipate an event when fireworks or other loud noises will occur, there are some strategies you can use to prepare your pet for the experience.
Desensitization: This is all about getting your pet used to the loud noises, and making their experiences with it neutral, or even positive. Start by exposing them to loud noises gradually over a few weeks. You can find fireworks and similar noises on YouTube. Begin by playing the noises low in the background, and giving them treats and lots of positive reinforcement while they hear the sound. Gradually increase the volume and intensity of the sound. They will begin to associate the loud noises with treats and praise.
Exercise: If there is going to be fireworks in your area in the next few hours, try taking your pet for a walk or a play to use up some energy.
Modify their environment: Make the house a safe space for them. Get them their comfiest blanket, their favourite toy, or anything that helps them feel safe. In some cases, a thundershirt may be helpful (a close-fitting vest that almost acts like a hug). Close the windows and curtains to prevent the flashes and loud noises from polluting their environment, and also to keep them safely indoors. Provide distractions for them such as treats, lick mats, new toys, etc, to keep them busy. Remove any objects that could potentially cause them harm.
Pheromones: Adaptil and Feliway are diffusers for dogs and cats respectively that emit calming pheromones into your home, and can help ease anxiety.
Microchip: Ensure your pet is microchipped, in case they run away when startled.
The following are a few tips of what to do while the fireworks are taking place:
Plan for next time! Speak with your veterinarian or behaviourist about how you can make improvements on your fireworks strategies. There may be other ways that we can help, such as pharmaceutical intervention. These same strategies apply to thunderstorms, gunshots, and any other loud events your pet isn’t used to. Please do not hesitate to contact your Vetlife veterinarian with any questions your may have!
Dr. Dominique Monaghan
Vetlife Pleasant Point