This is a particularly frightening time of year for pets with all the bangs, flashes and strangers knocking on our doors. Our team has put together some essential information for pet owners to ensure your furry friends are kept safe. Much of the information below relates to dogs, but all our pets are likely to be affected by fireworks, they just don’t show us in such an obvious manner. Information regarding cats, rabbit and guinea-pigs can be found nearer the end.
Getting through scary noise events
If it is only a week or two until fireworks season, it is too late to desensitise your dog to fireworks for this year, therefore your first priority should be to make preparations to help your dog through the fear-inducing event. Make sure that you have constructed a refuge for your dog so that he or she can hide and feel safe while the event is happening.
Get your dog used to going to the hiding place 2-3 times each day during the run up to a firework event by taking him/her there and giving him some food or a favourite chew. This will help the dog to understand that this is a good place to go to.
Make sure your dog is kept in a safe and secure environment at all times so that he or she cannot bolt and escape if a sudden noise occurs. Keep your dog on a leash in public places and make sure that gates, fences and doors are secure.
Take your dog out to go to the toilet some time before the fireworks noises begin. Draw the curtains and keep windows shut to block sound from outside. If your dog is used to the sound of TV/radio, put this on to act as a distraction from the noises outside.
We may provide you with some medication to help your dog through times when he or she is frightened by loud noises, and you should use these in accordance with the instructions supplied.
How should you react?
As soon as the firework noises start, lead your dog to the hiding place and encourage him/her to stay there.
Don’t get cross with your dog when he or she is scared, it will cause more fear and stress. Do try to soothe or calm him/her and continue to show attention and affection when your dog has begun to relax.
It is a good idea to try to get your dog in a happy mood before the sounds start, by playing games and doing training using food rewards. Stay playful when the noises start. This will stop him from falling into a state of anxious tension, but don’t expect too much.
Be a good role model for your dog. Try to appear happy and unconcerned by the noises. If your dog is only mildly fearful you could try to engage him or her in some form of active game. It can also help if you play a game with another pet in the household, because the frightened one may be tempted to join in.
What should I do to prevent future problems?
Stay out of trouble. If you know that your dog is sound-sensitive you should avoid taking your dog anywhere that there may be a level of noise that your dog cannot tolerate.
Act jolly. If you do need to go somewhere where loud noise is a possibility, then be prepared. As soon as you see any sign that your dog has heard a scary noise, act jolly and playful. You should be able to distract your dog and then reward him for focusing on you by feeding some of his favourite food treats or playing a game.
If your dog becomes afraid, try to stay as neutral as possible and take your dog out of the situation to somewhere quiet and secure, or show him to his hiding place.
Provide a hiding place. At home, your dog should always have somewhere to hide during loud noise events.
Seeking professional help
Sound phobias are serious and can interfere with your dog’s quality of life. They will not get better with time and it is important to start therapy as soon as possible. The Westport Team should be your first port of call for advice about any aspect of your dog’s health, including behaviour. We will be able to give you advice on drug therapy, if it is appropriate, and arrange referral to a pet behaviour counsellor for further advice and support.
Keep your cat indoors in the evening on fireworks night, at least until the fireworks have passed and the outside world has quietened down. Provide him/her with a litter tray during this time and a safe refuge where they can feel secure. Do not try to cuddle or hold your cat – they prefer to deal with anxiety in their own way. Close all curtains and doors and lock the cat flap if you have one whilst the fireworks are taking place.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets and birds all need to be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off. These animals are easily frightened. The following precautions should be taken to minimise stress when fireworks are being released. Hutches/cages and enclosures should, if possible, be brought into a quiet room indoors, or into a garage or shed. Give your pet extra bedding to burrow into so it feels safe.
If you cannot bring your pet’s hutch inside, you should turn its enclosure around so that it faces a wall or fence instead of the open garden. Cover any aviaries or hutches with thick blankets or a duvet to block out the sight of the fireworks and deaden the sound of the bangs, but make sure there is enough ventilation.
Some of the above information has been taken from The Dog’s Trust website. Further useful advice, particularly relating to the long-term desensitisation of your pet to fireworks can be found at www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy/
Further good advice for dealing with fireworks season in all our common domestic species can be found at