Ensure pets don’t lose sparkle amid firework fears

Vet surgeon Mark Harrison and dog Moriarty

Vets are advising pet owners on how to prevent their animals becoming stressed and unsettled as fireworks season gets under way.

Sue O’Hare, behaviour trainer at Calder Vets, which has 12 surgeries across Yorkshire, including a  24-hour animal hospital in Dewsbury, has warned this time of year can be a nightmare for terrified pets who become spooked as fireworks are used ever more frequently – not only for the traditional November 5 bonfire night but also in celebration of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

“Unfortunately, some animals can react extremely badly, becoming so frenzied that they can injure themselves or even their owners, which can obviously result in serious consequences,” said Sue.

“Stressed pets can be treated by playing slow tempo classical music using single instruments, which has been shown to have a greater calming effect than fast orchestral music. If owners feel natural products or methods are not helping, they should speak to their vet regarding the option of anti-anxiety medication.”

Sue also recommends a host of other tips to help pets cope with the commotion of fireworks season, including closing curtains before dusk and ensuring animals are inside when celebrations are taking place.

She said: “There are a lot of things pet owners can do, such as distracting animals with active play, television and music.

“Do not be reluctant to talk to your pet if they seek you out. They are looking to you to help them feel safe and we all know the feeling of needing to be close to our loved ones in times of insecurity. Your pet’s fearful behaviour is a response to the emotion of panic.

“Offer your love and show them it is OK to ask you to help them feel safe, while at the same time remaining cheerful and confident.

“I’d also recommend owners of young dogs who are experiencing their first bonfire night begin a programme of counter conditioning with the first firework. Have a tub of tasty treats to hand, or a favourite tug toy.  If the pup startles to a firework sound then toss a tasty treat or begin a fun game. This should be repeated each time the puppy responds in a startled manner. This will build up an association of good things with the noise and help prevent future sound sensitivities.”

Top tips to ensure your pet stays safe during fireworks season:

  • Always keep cats and dogs inside when fireworks are let off
  • Some pets like to hide in the bathroom. Make sure toilet lids are down if you have a small dog or cat. Beware if you have the older style of toilet with the exposed U-bend as some dogs can wedge between the pipework and become stuck
  • Close all windows and doors, draw curtains and seal up cat flaps
  • Let your pet pace around, whine, mew and hide if they want to. Don’t try to coax them out – they are trying to find safety and should not be disturbed
  • Hutches and cages should, if possible, be taken into a quiet room indoors or into a garage or shed. If this isn’t possible, turn them around to face a wall, creating a black-out from the flashes of fireworks
  • Give your small pet extra bedding to burrow into so it feels safe