The last thing a pet owner wants to see is their furry friend upset, but sadly this can happen for many with fear and anxiety around Bonfire Night.
Due to their enhanced senses, animals can find the loud bangs, vibrations and flashes from fireworks distressing, often leading to stress-related behaviours.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, says: “Firework season can be deeply worrying for many of our pets, but unfortunately, there are things we can do now to prepare them – helping to minimise the impact of this noisy affair.
Preparing for a scaring
“Start preparing your four-legged friend week-by-week, well ahead of any expected firework displays, to help reduce any anxiety they may feel on the night.
At least four to six weeks prior to bonfire night, begin to get your pets used to the noise.
Play firework sounds quietly throughout the house and reward calm behaviour with a tasty treat. As the weeks progress, gradually increase the noise, and continue to reward them for staying calm around the sounds.
If they become upset, go back a stage in their training by reducing the volume to a level they are comfortable with.
If your pet is particularly sensitive to changes in their environment, and the sounds s of bonfire night and other celebrations then it may be a good idea to consider using pheromone products as these can trigger a natural calming response in your pet – some even say they help owners too!”
Safe and secure
“Make sure to secure your home and garden in advance, as fearful furry friends may panic and attempt to escape.
Ensure any ‘escape routes’ – such as doors, windows and cat flaps are closed and locked, and that your garden fences are secure in case they do get out, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s also a good idea to ensure your pet’s microchip details are up to date, should the worst happen and they do flee.
Build a safe, covered den in one of your pet’s favourite places for them to hide in.
If you have room, cover a table with a blanket and fill it with soft and cosy bedding, their favourite toys, water and treats.
Allow them to come and go as they please and allow this to be their haven where no one else goes.
That way if they feel like they want to hide away when fireworks start, they can retreat there feeling safe and comforted.”
Advice for smaller pets
“Rabbits and other small pets can also be frightened by fireworks, so soundproofing hutches is a great idea to keep the noise out and give them somewhere to hide.
Do this by partly covering them with old carpets or blankets (making sure to leave gaps for airflow) and packing the bedroom area of their hutch with plenty of deep bedding.
For furry family members that live indoors, move their enclosure away from any doors or windows and keep the curtains drawn to drown out loud noises. You can also use a de-sensitisation playlist to drown out the bangs of fireworks.
If your pet gets severely distressed around bonfire night do speak to your vet well in advance, they may advise professional behaviour therapy or prescribed medications.”
I brought my first puppy home at the end of last year and with firework season approaching, I’m really worried about her becoming frightened. What can I do?
The loud bangs and flashes from fireworks can be really scary for our pets – you’re doing the right thing by preparing ahead.
As this is your pup’s first firework season, she will need to be introduced to the sights and sounds gradually, as with anything new. Use pre-recorded sounds to get her used to different noises, including fireworks.
Start by playing the audio quietly, keeping the experience positive by rewarding your pup with a tasty treat or fun game.
Gradually build up her tolerance, making sure she remains calm as you slowly increase the volume and duration over several weeks.
Hearing the sound of fireworks from a young age, in a safe and calm environment with a lovely association such as a treat, will help her to feel at ease with the real thing.
I’m a teacher and now that my children and I are back to school, our dog is spending more time home alone. What can I do to make her feel at ease while we’re out of the house?
Many are feeling the loss of their family, now we’re getting back into our usual routines.
Signs of anxiety or distress when alone, such as destructive behaviour, barking and whining, is commonly recognised as separation anxiety; luckily, there are ways to help.
Try to keep the same routines and calm behaviour when leaving and coming home, so your dog knows what to expect and begins to realise that you will return.
Arrange for someone she knows to pop in and spend time with her so she’s left for no longer than four hours at a time.
What’s the best way to keep my pet bird warm as the days get colder?
Many species of pet birds are exotic, meaning they’re not as prepared for the cold months.
The best temperature depends on the species and age of your feathered friend.
Humidity and air quality are important to maintain good respiratory health.
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