Fireworks and Fear 

By Vet Graham Lewis

Many people love fireworks, but they can be a source of fear for animals. 

Here are some tips to help make this time less frightening for your pet – and easier for you.

Bear in mind pets will be aware of the colder, longer nights of autumn and may be in a heightened state of anxiety prior to the first fireworks even being lit as they anticipate what’s coming.

Pheromone diffusers can be helpful for your dog or cat. They disperse calming chemicals into the room. You can use a Feliway cat pheromone which plugs into a wall socket and lasts for 28 days, and a Adaptil dog pheromone which is available as a plug-in or a collar which last for 28 days. 

Sprays are also available to put on bedding or cloth in the pet’s normal sleeping area.  It is a good idea to provide your dog with a safe-haven, a quiet hide-away where they can go if scared. You can encourage your dog to associate this place with positive experiences by leaving toys there. It is important that the dog has access to its safe-haven at all times even when you are not home, helping it to cope. 

There are medications available from your veterinary practice which can help reduce anxiety in pets. 

In the long term it is helpful if your dog is less afraid of loud noises. This can be possible to achieve with appropriate behavioural advice and lots of patience.

There are CD recordings of sounds like fireworks and thunder which you can use to gradually desensitise your pet to these noises. For example, ‘Sounds Scary’ which includes easy-to-follow instructions on the desensitisation process. Ideally you need to start in spring to give your dog enough time to become desensitised before bonfire night.  It is important not to rush them too quickly, but desensitising can hugely improve the quality of life for dogs with sound phobias.

Some owners have reported success using a product called a Thunder Shirt on their dogs, which mimics the swaddling of a baby.

Finally remember to walk dogs in daylight hours and keep cats and dogs indoors when fireworks are likely to be let off. In the evening close the windows, draw curtains and put on music or turn on the TV to muffle the sound of fireworks. 

Never punish your pet when it is scared as this will make things much worse.  Do ignore the fireworks and you can play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don’t force them to play. 

If you have any questions or would like some more information, please do not hesitate to give us a call.