Fireworks Night: Keeping your pets and wildlife safe

Remember the good ol’ days when Fireworks Night lasted for just two or three nights, i.e. the closest Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday night to November 5th? These days however, we and even more so our pets are aware, it can last anything from mid-October until way past New Year’s Eve.

Fireworks of all shapes and sizes, colours and noises, are now so readily available and what’s more seem to be employed to celebrate absolutely anything in these darker colder months, which if you’re a human is all good fun but if you’re an animal – pet or wildlife – it can potentially be distressing, harmful, and sadly lead to the development of even greater long-term behavioural problems and phobias.

But in the same way a couple of annoying days of predictable noisy bangs and flashes have been replaced by a longer, more intense and unpredictable stressful periods, so our knowledge of animal behaviour, as well as the options and safe products now available to help them have greatly increased, allowing us to look after our pets and wildlife far more successfully; instead of just relying on a few yellow pills from our vet which traditionally helped us deal with our pets’ suffering by visibly stopping them pacing up and down and getting anxious but only cos they were medically too numb to respond properly and instead remained utterly terrified.

So as this year’s Nov 5th rapidly approaches below are a few tips from a few expert websites and sources to help safeguard all animals and help them cope with what can be a very noisy and distressing period; resulting in signs such as shaking, crying, hiding, panting, restlessness, or being very flat both mentally and physically.

Feel free to share these tips far and wide so more animals can potentially be stress-free this weekend:

DOGS

The Kennel Club has put together some steps that can be taken to minimise a dog’s levels of stress and make things more bearable on the night.

Do:

• Acclimatise your dog to noises prior to the big night. There are many noise CDs on the market which give you the opportunity to introduce your dog to a variety of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner.

• Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if he or she feels scared.

• Alternatively, let your dog take refuge under furniture and include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comfortable.

• Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.

• Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour.

• Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog.

• Reward calm behaviour with doggie treats or playing with toys of interest.

• Check where and when displays are being held in your local area. Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything.

• Consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

• Seek help from an experienced animal behaviour counsellor if your pet is severely phobic. Kennel Club Accredited Instructors are experienced in different aspects of dog training and behaviour.

• Feed your dog well before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.

• Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself.

• Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don’t forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats!) escaping.

• Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door.

• Keep a collar and ID tag on your dog, just in case they do accidentally escape.

• Make sure your dog is microchipped too, as if he or she does escape without a collar on this will ensure you are reunited as quickly as possible.

Don’t:

• Take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don’t assume he or she is happy. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed.

• Tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.

• Assume your garden is escape proof. If your dog needs to go out keep him on a lead, just in case.

• Leave your dog on his or her own or in a separate room from you.

• Try to force your dog to face his fears – he’ll just become more frightened.

• Forget to top up the water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.

• Change routines more than necessary, as this can be stressful for some dogs.

• Try and comfort your dog if they become distressed, as this may make the behaviour worse. If your dog becomes distressed, do not try to comfort it as this may make the behaviour worse.

Useful Products

Pheromone diffusers (DAP) disperse calming chemicals into the room, and may be a good option for your dog. They are also available in collar or spray form click here.

Zylkene is use for cats or dogs to reduce anxiety and is an alternative to DAP. It is a powder based on a protein found in bitches’ milk which is sprinkled on the food once a day. Click here for more info.

Thundershirt can prove most effective. Click here for more details.

Dorwest Herbs Valerian Compound (Organic) for Dogs and Cats can work too and is very safe to use on both dogs and cats. Click here for more info.

Dorwest Herbs Scullcap and Valerian Tablets for Dogs and Cats licensed herbal medicine widely used and particularly effective for those suffering from noise phobias as a result of fireworks, thunderstorms or gunfire. Click here for more info.

CATS

The fireworks season can also be a nightmare for cats leading to possible behavioural problems including house soiling and excessive grooming or aggression, so leading feline welfare charity Cats Protection have provided these top tips to help keep your feline fearless from fireworks:

• Keep your cat in after dark and provide him or her with a litter tray if s/he is used to having garden access.

• Try to reduce outside noise by keeping windows shut and curtains drawn.

• Playing soothing music or having the TV on may also help.

• In order to feel secure, cats need to be settled in cosy, familiar territory such as a comfy bed or favourite chair.

• Cats that are known to be skittish, sensitive or new to a home, will be particularly vulnerable to firework noise and could panic and run away. Make sure doors and windows are securely fastened.

Useful Products

Pheromone diffusers (Feliway) disperse calming chemicals into the room, and may be a good option for your cat. They are also available in plug-in or spray form. Click here for more info.

Zylkene is use for cats or dogs to reduce anxiety and is an alternative to Feliway. It is a powder based on a protein found in queen’s milk which is sprinkled on the food once a day. Click here for more info.

Dorwest Herbs Valerian Compound (Organic) for Dogs and Cats can work too and is very safe to use on both dogs and cats. Click here for more info.

Dorwest Herbs Scullcap and Valerian Tablets for Dogs and Cats licensed herbal medicine widely used and particularly effective for those suffering from noise phobias as a result of fireworks, thunderstorms or gunfire. Click here for more info.

SMALL PETS & BIRDS

Birds and small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice and ferrets are easily frightened by fireworks. Here are some tips:

• Bring their hutches/cages indoors – into a quiet room, garage or shed.

• If you can’t bring them inside, turn their enclosure around so it faces a wall or fence instead of the open garden.

• Give them extra bedding to burrow into so they feel safe.

• Cover any aviaries/hutches with thick blankets or a duvet to block out the sound of the bangs and the sight of the fireworks but make sure there’s enough ventilation.

HORSES & PONIES

Here’s some advice if you have a horse or pony:

• Try to make sure fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable – tell neighbours and local fireworks display organizers that there are horses nearby.

• Keep your horse in a familiar environment and a normal routine with companions to make them feel secure. If they’re normally out in the field, keep them there as long as it’s safe, secure and not near the fireworks display area.

• If you know your horse reacts badly to loud noises, it might be worth speaking to your vet or considering moving them for a night.

• Try to stay calm and positive as horses can sense your unease.

• Don’t try to get in the way if your horse gets frightened as you may get hurt

GENERAL PRECAUTIONS FOR ANIMAL SAFETY

• Buying hand-held cascading fireworks rather than the noise-making varieties.

• Keeping fireworks and bonfires as far away from homes as possible, to minimise any adverse effects on animals indoors. This does not mean that other wild animals will not be affected.

• Check bonfires before lighting them to ensure that no small animals e.g. hedgehogs are sleeping inside.

USEFUL LINKS

Kennel Club
Cats Protection
Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
DogsandFireworks.com (Karen Wild)

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2 replies

  1. Fantastic post and advice with links to some great products. One of my dogs has not yet experienced fireworks so we have no idea what she will be like. The slightly older dog was not sure last year but we moved her bed under the table and we had treats / toys ready for any rewarding calm behaviour and when she came out of her bed, the odd firwework here and there did make her retreat to her bed occasionally, she was at times also curious and came to see what the noise was, we found playing her favourite game helped and as you have said in our post, act normal and don’t change our own behaviour as that certainly helps!

  2. We advise all of our clients, to lock cat flaps and not to forget the litter trays, during this time of year.

    Already I have already heard of dog deaths attributed to fireworks and I wonder how much longer, the government will allow the general public to have access to explosives!

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