very year eight million pets suffer in the UK because of fireworks and although Guy Fawkes might be a lot of fun for spectators, for pets it can be a painful and frightening time.
PDSA vet, Rebecca Ashman, explains how fireworks affect animals. “Anyone who has had a pet that suffers from fireworks phobia will know how challenging it can be,” she says.
“Pets have very acute hearing and, for them, the loud bangs can be terrifying. They can shake with fear, toilet in the house, destroy furniture, and even cause themselves physical injury if they panic or run away.”
Your pet doesn’t need to fear fireworks though, follow Rebecca’s advice for preparing your pet for fireworks. the volume and duration over a period of several weeks.
Build a fireworks den for your pet several weeks ahead – this should be somewhere they feel safe. For dogs this may be behind the sofa or under a table – cover it with blankets and line it with pillows to reduce any sound. Cats often feel safest when high up, so a safely secured cat bed on a shelf or wardrobe may be their preferred option. Don’t force them to use this, but do reward them with praise or a healthy treat when they do so they build a positive association.
These are available as diffusers which release scents which are undetectable to humans, but have a calming, reassuring effect on our pets. They are available for dogs and cats, and should be used for several weeks leading up to fireworks season.
If you have a young pet who will be experiencing fireworks for the first time, then how you react, and how this experience goes, can affect how they react to fireworks for the rest of their life. Read up on the process of socialisation, which is when young pets are introduced to a variety of people, objects, sounds and experiences during their first few months. When done correctly, this can significantly reduce the likelihood of fears developing in later life.
For severe phobias, we recommend speaking to your vet, who will be able to discuss various options including referral to an accredited behaviourist.