It’s that time of year again, and for many pet owners it’s a cause of great stress and concern for the well-being of their pets. Organised fireworks displays can be fun for families to attend, but it’s usually private fireworks that happen close by in neighbour’s yards that cause the most distress and psychological harm to furry family members.
Here are some tips to help your pet through this distressing time to make life a little easier on them.
- During the day, ensure dogs have had a nice long walk with lots of play to tire them out. An hour before the fireworks start give them their favourite dinner with a bit of cooked chicken and rice added for extra carbohydrate. This way they feel full, content and ready for sleep.
- Ensure all pets come in early to avoid fireworks enthusiasts who start letting them off while the sun is still blazing in the sky.
- Set up a ‘pet proofed’ room for your furry kids to hole up in for the night, if possible an interior room that has minimal access to the outdoors. Draw all the blinds to block out the flashing lights. Put everything in there that your pet will need like dirt boxes, pee pads, food, water and blankets for them to burrow under. Play some ambient noise in the background of the room they are in like TV or radio (if they are used to it) to mask the explosions.
- Bring in all outdoor pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets if you can. If bringing them indoors really isn’t possible, consider moving them to a shed or garage for the night. If this still isn’t possible, consider turning hutches around to face a wall or fence so they are not subjected to the noise, unusual smells and flashes. If you are unable to bring in pets like chickens or aviary birds, consider covering the pen with a blanket. Take extreme care not to block the flow of oxygen or to let them overheat while covered.
- Provide indoor pets with distractions like their favourite toys or play their favourite games to keep their minds off the noise. Try encouraging them to play, but if they are too fearful, don’t push them to do so.
- If you have friends with pets that aren’t fearful of fireworks, consider asking them over on a playdate to help your dog realise there is nothing to be afraid of.
- Make sure everyone who comes and goes from the house is aware there are frightened pets inside and great care must be taken to ensure they do not escape in fear. Check all catflaps, windows and doors are closed throughout the house.
- Ensure registrations, microchips and ID tags are up to date so if they do manage to get out and run away the chances are greater they will be returned to you as soon as possible.
- If you aren’t attending an organised fireworks event or letting off your own fireworks, consider staying home with your pet to support them through this frightening time.
- Remember pets feed off your emotions so if you are reacting to their despair, they will sense your concern. Act as if nothing is wrong, speaking to them in calm and reassuring tones at all times. If you act as if you are not at all worried this will help keep them calm too.
- While it is difficult not to baby them, try not to react to your dog when they are showing fearful behaviour. Remember, every time you react to them, you’re telling them what they just did is what works to get your attention. Reacting every time they show distress may inadvertently encourage the fearful behaviour. Wait until there is a brief break in the behaviour then act friendly and caring towards them, but not overbearing. When the fearful behaviour begins again, wait until it passes, then show your dog care and attention again.
- If your pet needs to hide, let them. Trying to get them to go against their instinctual need to take refuge will only add to their distress. Instead quietly talk to them in a soothing tone to let them know you are there for them when they are ready to come out.
- If you are letting off fireworks in your own yard, do a quick scout of the area to ensure there are no pets around. If you see there is a pet outdoors in a neighbour’s yard, consider letting them know your family is about to let off fireworks and it may be a good idea for them to bring them indoors.
- If you are organising an event with family and friends, consider letting neighbours know in advance this is what you will be doing so they may make the provisions for their pets in advance. Consider only letting off fireworks that your family can view in the comfort of your yard, rather than those that flash high in the air and screech or explode loudly.
- If you are unable to stay at home because you promised your human children a trip to an organised event, perhaps look at asking a trusted family member or good friend of the family to care for them. You could also hire a professional pet sitter to come to your home and gently calm them when you can’t be there.
- If your pet has acute fear or problems with their heart you may wish to consider talking to your vet about medication. You may also consider a more natural alternative such as Rescue Remedy for pets. This will need to be organised well in advance so you on the night you are ready for action.
- Keep veterinary information handy and have contact details for an after hours surgery handy. If pets do escape and are harmed, have a panic attack or heart problems you will be prepared.
- An alternative for intensely nervous pets is to book them in to a trusted pet boarding facility, although this would probably need to only be in the most extreme cases. The stress of packing everything up and transporting nervous pets and leaving them behind with strangers would most likely be worse than staying at home where they are most comfortable and have loved ones around. If this is a valid consideration, you may even contemplate a night out of the city to visit relatives, friends or pet friendly accommodation that isn’t affected by fireworks.
- Once the night is over, give your yard the once over and clear out any spent fireworks casings. Fireworks contain toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals that can be extremely hazardous if ingested by pets. Even chemical substances found in spent matches can be harmful.
I personally feel that private fireworks should be banned and only organised displays should be held for all to enjoy. At the moment, it can go on for months on end, and as the mother of light sleepers, I can tell you it’s no picnic for those with human family members too! A ban would at least restrict the number of nights per year that nervous pets (and small humans) have to endure the fear and uncertainty of explosions and shrieks around them at night. It would also limit the danger pets face at the hands of malicious individuals intent on causing harm to innocent animals.
Until this happens, I hope the above tips help you comfort your furry kids this Guy Fawkes night. Do you have any more tips of your own? Please feel free to add them in the comments below!