Prepare your pets early for fireworks, say vets

14 October 2016

Vets recommend owners start preparing pets now to prevent upset from fireworks

With bonfire night fast approaching, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is encouraging pet owners to start preparing pets now to prevent possible upset from fireworks.

Firework noise can reach up to 150 decibels, as loud as a jet engine, and dogs, cats and other pets are often particularly sensitive to noise, causing the period around 5 November to be traumatic and distressing for many.

Gudrun Ravetz, President of BVA, said:

"Having had a dog with a noise phobia, I know how upsetting it is to see your pet get distressed and anxious around loud noises. If your pet shows any sign of fear to fireworks or other noises, it's important to seek professional advice from your local vet to help both you and your pet through these stressful times.”

Some pets show obvious signs of distress, such as panting, drooling and attempts to escape, but there are also more subtle signs that owners should be aware of, including restlessness and toileting in the house. Cats often hide while rabbits may keep very still and thump the ground with their back feet.

Five top tips for helping keep your pets calm during fireworks:

  1. Prepare a den for your pet around two weeks before bonfire night and give them praise when they are relaxed there, so they come to view it as a safe retreat.
  2. Use pheromone products next to the den and around the home. These are scents that we can't smell but reduce a pet's stress.
  3. Provide background noise and close curtains and windows on nights when fireworks are expected.
  4. Remain calm yourself. Try not to reassure your pet as this often inadvertently reinforces anxious behaviour. Never punish your pet – remember, if they toilet in the house it's not their fault.
  5. Move small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to a quiet place indoors when fireworks are expected, and give lots of bedding to mask the sounds.

If your pet is severely distressed by fireworks or other noises, BVA encourages pet owners to visit their vet to discuss treatment options. Firework phobia can be effectively treated with behaviour-modification techniques, which can achieve long-term success with professional input and owner commitment and patience.

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