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Vet Q&A: how to help your pet stay calm during firework season

Bonfires, sparklers and fireworks are brilliant fun, but not for our pets. Here to answer your questions on how to keep your pets calm through firework season, is Fetch’s resident vet, Lauren. Read our Q&A with Lauren below.

My cats get very spooked by loud bangs from fireworks and hide away. Is there a way I can make them less afraid?

Cats have incredible hearing, so loud, unpredictable bangs are terrifying for many cats. If you don’t already have one, a cat-specific pheromone diffuser plug-in can help to calm frightened kitties. Cats prefer hiding in higher spots, like a high shelf, so make sure you have some cosy hideaways for them. 

My cat tends to run away when fireworks are going off, and I’m worried she’ll get lost. Can I keep her locked inside the house for the evening?

Yes, bring your cat indoors before it gets dark as some cats run away when they hear the loud bangs and then struggle to find their way back home. Make sure your cat is microchipped and their microchip details (like your phone number) are up to date – just in case they do escape.

Are there any products or tips that could help my pet chickens who are terrified during fireworks season?

Some think that chickens are not affected by fireworks because they don’t show the normal signs of stress we associate with dogs and cats. However, the stress can even affect laying and shell quality. Extra insulation and covering the sides of their enclosure with blankets can help muffle loud bangs and reduce flashing lights. Just remember to leave sufficient sides open for ventilation. If your neighbours are setting off fireworks, make sure your garden is clear before letting your chickens out the next day, as they might eat debris left behind.

Is it best to stay with my pet while fireworks are going off, or leave them alone?

Staying at home with your pet means you can make sure they don’t injure themselves and help comfort them. Only give them affection if they come to you first, ignore the fireworks and keep as calm as possible. Don’t punish your pet if they are behaving badly and don’t over-comfort them either – this can cause more anxiety or reinforces their fears.

One of my dogs is fine with fireworks, but the other one gets nervous and this then upsets the other dog. Is there anything I can do to make my dogs feel more relaxed?

Firstly, arm yourself with a calming toolkit for your fearful dog – dog-specific pheromones, calming supplements, Thundershirts. You could also try desensitisation training, consulting a behaviourist or asking for veterinary advice (including prescription medication- see next two questions for more information). If things escalate between your dogs (for example, if fighting becomes a problem), some experts recommend separating your dogs, but this would be a last resort.

How far in advance do I need to give my dog calming supplements to help him get through fireworks season?

This depends on the type of calming supplement and your pet’s anxiety levels. Some supplements only need to be given a few hours before, while others should be given for several days or weeks in advance. Ask your vet if you’re not sure.

Someone told me I can give my dog a sedative so that they sleep through the fireworks. Is this dangerous?

There are a number of veterinary prescription medications suitable for anxiety and noise phobias in dogs and cats. Most of these are perfectly safe (and very effective) in a healthy pet, but they do require a recent health check-up and a discussion with your vet about how it will affect your pet (e.g. drowsiness). Do not give your dog or cat any human sedatives.

My dog likes to bark and howl at the fireworks. He doesn’t seem afraid, more excited and hyper. How can I stop him from doing this?

Excessive vocalising, such as barking and howling could still be signs of distress. They could also be signs of being hyper-alert because they’re sensing imminent danger. Desensitisation training may be a useful option in this situation, but you’d need to start this several weeks before a fireworks event.

I want to build a den for my dog this fireworks season. What should I include?

Either a crate or a large table can be used as the frame of their den, as long as they can easily stand up and turn around. Drape some thick blankets over the top and sides to help dampen the sound and face it away from the windows. Pop their bed inside and add some puzzle toys and Lickimats sprinkled with treats to keep them busy. If they have a favourite toy, then make sure they have it, as this helps reassure them. Plug in a pheromone diffuser nearby and you’re all set!

Is there anything I can do for my pet rabbit during fireworks season?

Rabbits can be distressed by fireworks, so if your rabbit usually lives outdoors, bring your rabbit indoors. Close the curtains and provide a warm, cosy spot with lots of hay. There are also diffuser plug-ins suitable for small animals, like rabbits and hamsters. If it’s not possible to bring them in, give your rabbit extra bedding to burrow into, more hiding spots and cover their enclosure with extra insulation or a thick blanket. Just remember to leave your rabbit enough ventilation if you do cover the enclosure.

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