This time of year can be incredibly stressful for our four-legged and feathered loved ones, as well as local wildlife too; so we must do everything possible to protect them. With news reports of pets suffering heart attacks and dying, fireworks night – or nights – as it seems to go on from now until past New Year’s Eve, can be incredibly dangerous to animals both wild and domesticated.
It’s important to understand your pet and recognise signs of stress. From being over-excited and barking, to appearing trance-like and flat, there can be wide range of emotions shown, and sometimes none at all, with pets just going about their business as if nothing’s happening outside. Dogs’ hearing is incredibly sensitive, so noise phobias – especially when poorly socialised as pups from irresponsible breeding establishments like puppy farms – are now commonplace.
Tips on reducing stress in dogs include making sure you walk, feed, and water your pooch long before dusk. Meals high in carbohydrates can often lead to what us humans refer to as a food coma, hopefully then leading to a good night’s canine sleep. Provide a safe den for your dog to hide in, preferably with extra bedding, and consider including an item of your unwashed clothing – like a familiar jumper – for extra emotional comfort.
Turn the TV or radio up to drown out the loud bangs, and draw the curtains to help block out sound and light flashes which can further increase anxiety. Keep a stash of positive rewards handy to reward good calm behaviour but don’t be surprised if your dog has lost his or her appetite. Always act totally normal, as though there’s nothing wrong, and keep water bowls topped-up as nervous dogs will often drink more.
Cats can get stressed too, and should always be kept indoors, locking cat flaps if necessary. This means a litter tray should be provided if your cat normally toilets outside. Smaller animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds can also react badly to loud firework noises and flashes, so should be brought inside and given extra bedding to burrow into where appropriate; consider even covering cages with thick cloths ensuring one side is free to permit adequate ventilation.
Never punish your dog or cat for getting stressed, barking, soiling in the house, or any other abnormal behaviour displayed on fireworks night. Please also don’t tie your dog outside, lock them in a room on their own, or take them along to a firework display and expect them to cope and be OK.
It’s not too late to visit your local vet practice and get professional advice on making sure your pet remains safe. Behaviour modifying products like pheromone plug-ins can be purchased over the counter without prescription, with stronger safe sedatives for more difficult cases available from your vet. It’s also important to make sure all pets are microchipped with contact details kept up to date in case of any escapees.
Don’t forget to ask your neighbours if they’re planning any back garden displays, and research into local public displays, so you can be well prepared. Regarding local wildlife always check under bonfires before lighting for animals, especially sleeping hedgehogs.
Finally I’d like to pay tribute to supermarket chain Sainsbury’s for this year refusing to sell fireworks because of the potential stress caused to pets; and moving forward please sign and share this important government e-petition to ‘Ban fireworks for general sale to the public’, even though it’s already collected over 100K signatures; the more that have signed means it looks very popular with the British public, so hopefully some progress can be made when it’s eventually debated in Westminster. Have a safe fireworks night folks!