Keep your pets safe on Bonfire Night
Q I’m worried my dog might be afraid of fireworks. What can I do?
Many dogs are afraid of fireworks and they react in different ways. They may tremble, drool, pant or refuse to eat. Some dogs become very clingy with their owners while others will try to hide away.
It’s upsetting for you as well as your dog, and you will want to make Bonfire Night as easy as possible for your pet.
A few days in advance, provide a ‘den’ where he can feel safe. Choose a spot where your dog naturally goes for a bit of peace and quiet, and make it comfortable – perhaps placing blankets over a table and cushions underneath, or just padding out his normal bed. On Bonfire Night itself, take your dog for his walk good and early so he is safe indoors before the first fireworks start. Shut the windows and draw the curtains to muffle the sound and mask the flashing lights, but leave the internal doors open so your dog doesn’t feel trapped in one room. You can also turn on the radio or TV at a normal level, to mask the sound of fireworks.
Q How can I help my cat stay safe over Bonfire Night?
During the firework season it’s best to keep your cat indoors after dark. Even if she doesn’t normally use a litter tray, it’s a good idea to provide one at this time to give her the option, especially as you’ll be keeping her in longer than usual. Cats can be harder to comfort than dogs but don’t be tempted to pick her up or restrain her. If she’s hiding it’s best to leave her in her chosen ‘safe spot’ rather than trying to coax her out. If you know where your cat likes to hide away, you could make it cosy with blankets or cushions a few days in advance. Not all cats will hide; some may come to you for food or reassurance. Try to act calm, and this will help your cat to feel relaxed, too.
Q Can I give my dog medication? She was terrified of the fireworks last year
There are a few options. Some are based on natural chemicals called pheromones produced by mothers to reassure their puppies. These come either as a plug-in aerosol for the room or a collar the dog can wear. There are similar products for cats, too. Besides these, there are tablets or capsules containing natural ingredients which can help to relax your pet. In extreme cases your vet may prescribe stronger medications, but these can have significant side effects and are not always suitable. If you are concerned, make an appointment in good time to discuss the options with your vet.
Q Are there any training methods I can use to help my dog cope better this year?
You should definitely not take your pet to a firework display in the hope of helping them ‘confront their fear’, as this will most likely make things worse. There are CDs designed to accustom your dog to firework noises gradually. You start with the sound very quiet in background, and increase the volume over several days – but you must watch carefully and back off if you see signs of fear. If your dog is very sensitive to fireworks or other loud noises, consider asking your vet to refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist, who can work with you and your dog during what can be a difficult time. Finally, don’t shout at your pet even if it has done something ‘naughty’ when scared, or you will only make it more scared in future.
Don’t try to coax your cat out from a ‘safe spot’
make indoors comfortable for your pet
Emma marchington a small animal vet at Brelades Vets, in Surrey, is our expert in animal health.