Many people love the sights and sounds of fireworks, but for our pets and other animals, fireworks can be extremely frightening and distressing. Most vet clinics and SPCA’s around the country encounter a number of lost, injured and even abused animals following fireworks. With some preparation and awareness, however, it is possible to get through the fireworks season with minimal fear and stress.
Always make sure your pets are safe and secure. They should be microchipped, or at least have a collar with contact details in the event that they run off from fright. Make sure runs, cages and bird aviaries are secured and covered.
Cats and dogs are best to be kept inside. Make sure the windows are covered, doors shut and secured, and have the t.v. or radio on to help cover the sounds of fireworks. Your pet may have their own safe spot – it may be their crate, or perhaps a certain bedroom, whilst others may prefer an area created for them that is dark and quiet. Let them use this, and make sure it remains a positive place for them to retreat.
If your pet hides in a cupboard or under a bed, don’t try to get them out – this may distress them further. Scared animals can be unpredictable. Stay safe. Just reassure them you’re there and let them come out on their own.
Some pets seem naughty when they are in fact scared or distressed. Do not get cross with your pet. They will not understand. Fear is an emotion, not behaviour; so comforting your pet when they’re scared may help them feel less scared, it doesn’t reinforce the fear. Very importantly, remember to also pat and praise your pet when they are relaxed.
Considering getting some Adaptil (DAP – dog appeasing pheromone) or Feliway (synthetic feline pheromone) from your vet that can be used in the home as a spray or diffuser to provide comforting scent specific for dogs or cats. This should be started at least a few days prior to an event, and in the area where they are most likely to find refuge.
There are compression coats such as the ‘Thundershirt’ that can be used on cats and dogs to reduce anxiety. These can be ordered online or through your vet clinic. There’s also music available on You Tube or CD that may help your pet feel calm. Search for Relax my Cat, Relax my Dog, Through a Cats Ear, Through a Dogs Ear and Music for Cats. Use the music when everything is calm, before using it during a stressful event. There are also desensitising sound CDs available. Search for Sound Therapy for Dogs.
If your pet has previously reacted badly to fireworks, discuss with your vet whether medication is suitable to get them through the season. Once it’s over an individual training plan can be designed to desensitise your pet to make it easier next time.
Don’t forget outside pets and livestock. They should be secured safely in their enclosures and paddocks, preferably in the quietest area of the property. Stay safe! Don’t try to stop large animals if they’re panicking. Just ensure they remain safe and secure at a distance, and reassure them once they calm down.
If you’re not going to be home during a fireworks display, perhaps have someone come and stay with your pets if you know they get particularly distressed. Alternatively it may be preferable to have them stay at a boarding facility in a quiet area.
The best way to see fireworks is at an organised display. If you’re planning on having a fireworks display, please consider the animals in your area. Let your neighbours know in advance so they too can keep their pets safe. Better yet, reconsider.
Please make sure your animals are safe and secure during the up-coming fireworks season and if you see an animal in distress or harmed by fireworks, please let the authorities know immediately!