FIREWORKS AND PETS
Summer is full of celebrations, sometimes involving fireworks. Dogs and cats react to fireworks individually. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.
Many pets get lost, injured or killed during this time, so if your pet isn’t microchipped, this could be lifesaving prevention in order to get an escapee returned home. We can do this in a quick simple appointment on any working day. Its also a good idea for your pets to be wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number – although it may come off, if it doesn’t your pet can be quickly returned.
Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside, and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.
Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. Try to be home or have your dog with you during fireworks events, as they will be less anxious if you are home. Bring outside pets inside, so they can't bolt. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a toilet break during the fireworks, have them on a leash, even in a fenced yard.
What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that's needed. Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat. Also, having the TV on a bit louder than usual may help disguise the sudden loud noises associated with fireworks.
Synthetic pheromone products such as Feliway diffusers for cats and Adaptil diffusers or collars for dogs are worth trying. These products imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being.
Some pets respond to pressure wraps, the most well known being “Thundershirts”. The pressure around the body has a calming effect and works well in many dogs. A great benefit is that you don’t need to know exactly when the fireworks will be, you can put the Thundershirt on around the time they are expected and leave it on for days around festive periods like New Years Eve when fireworks may be sporadic for many hours.
Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards such as small pieces of cheese, meat or liver treats, offer your pet his favourite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards.
You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends – usually the pet needs to choose their own safe place and the owner needs to ensure this space is available during frightening events. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs! Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behaviour when the fireworks are over.
Drug therapies can be discussed with your vet for particularly severe or serious phobias (such as dogs breaking down doors). These can be very effective if the timing of use is correct and they are the right choice for your dog. Some can take weeks to be effective, so ensure you see the veterinarian well in advance of expected fireworks events