Remember, Remember your Pets this November (and the Rest of the Winter..)
How best to prepare yourself and your pets for firework season
Column by Alice Clark RVN
One of my fondest childhood memories is my brother and I, our family dog between us, watching the local firework display out of our living room window. We sat in the darkness, an arm each around our pooch. She watched just as intently as we did. Nowadays I am not as sentimental and as the days begin to get shorter, there is one thing that fills many pet owners with dread. Firework season.
Whilst we may or may not choose to partake in this spectacle, it is inevitable that you can’t avoid the event completely. When it comes to fireworks, preparation is key. Even the most well-adjusted pets can quickly become stressed by unpredictable loud noises and our lovely family dog became more affected as she aged. The whole family became well rehearsed in a military style firework ‘drill’ – which makes me think we’d be quite good in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Here are some of my tips for making this season go smoothly for yourself and your furry friend.
Keep pets inside once it gets dark.
Walk your dogs before darkness falls. Try to ensure cats are safely inside before any fireworks are likely to be set off. Make sure that windows and doors are closed properly and curtains are drawn to hide scary flashes of light. Do not forget pet rabbits and guinea pigs either. Bring small animal hutches into the house and provide plenty of extra bedding for security.
If your pets are used to a television or radio, use them to help disguise the noise of the fireworks. Do not be tempted to turn up the volume too loud – it’s unlikely that your pets are huge fans of the X Factor.
Create a safe space for your pet well ahead of time.
Allow your pet to familiarise themselves with this space at least at month beforehand. A covered crate can be a perfect den for dogs. Buy a few special toys and treats for them to enjoy in their den and only allow them to interact with these toys periodically during the preparation time, to keep them interesting. Cats may choose to hide under a bed or somewhere else sheltered. If they feel safe here, do not try and coax them out during the fireworks.
Double check that your pet is wearing an identification tag and/or microchip details are up to date, to comply with the law.
Pets are much more likely to stray during firework season, so this will guarantee a swift reunion if they are found by someone else.
If you’re calm, your pets will worry less. Try and stick to your usual evening routine.
It has previously been thought that you should ignore any ‘stress’ related behaviour displayed by your pet. To some extent this is true. For example, if your pet chooses to move to a quiet place or wants to pace around room, you should not fuss them unnecessarily. However, if your pet looks to you for comfort, give it. A cuddle, stroke, or softly spoken word can make a huge difference to many pets. If your pet would rather hide away, that’s fine too!
Try using synthetic pheromone diffusers or sprays.
These odourless products for dogs and cats can help to relax pets, using calming pheromones to make them feel more secure. They can be purchased from your vets or from most pet shops.
Anxiety wraps for dogs have been proven to work in some cases.
They look like a baby grow, and use acupressure and constant, gentle maintained pressure to relieve stress in dogs.
Discuss non-prescriptions products with your veterinary practice.
There are a number of different supplements that you can begin to use in your pets food, a few days in advance of stressful situations. These supplements work in different ways and may maintain a calming effect for a longer period of time.
Always seek the advice of a vet or qualified behaviourist if you think your pet’s behaviour is out of control. If your pet already has a severe noise phobia, stronger drugs provided by your vet might be the only short-term option for your pets’ wellbeing.
As previously mentioned, the more thoroughly you prepare, the smoother the season is likely to be. You can’t always be forewarned about private displays, but prepare for Halloween, 5th November and New Years Eve. Think ahead and familiarise yourself with dates of local public displays.
Remember, although Halloween is an exciting event for humans, it can be a particularly terrifying event for pets. They will be more than happy to stay safely at home, whilst you terrorise your neighbours (assuming you will be partaking in trick-or-treating and not because you do this for fun all year round). So, batten down the hatches and good luck to you all.