Fear of Fireworks and Thunderstorms

Some animals can find the sound and sight of fireworks very distressing. It is very important to ensure that they are kept away and in a safe place when fireworks are going off.

Before the Event

Provide a safe secure place (preferably inside) where your pet can hide. This needs to be completely escape proof. Put in lots of blankets for your pet to dig and burrow in. Include an old, unwashed piece of your clothing so that your pet can smell you in their hideout. The aim is to minimise the amount of noise entering the hideout from the outside and your pet must not see the flashes of the fireworks as they explode, so close the windows and curtains. If possible make the place where the pet is going to go as dark and quiet as you can. The designated place must be accessible to your pet at all times, and it is vital to make sure that doors are fixed so that they cannot accidentally shut and trap your pet inside or out of the room. Get your pet used to going to the hideout place 2-3 times each day during the run up to the firework display by taking them there and rewarding them for calm behaviour by giving them treats, a chew or their daily dinner. Play music (moderate volume, steady beat) if your pet finds this soothing. Make sure your pet is kept safe and secure at all times so that it doesn't bolt and escape if a sudden noise occurs. Keep your dog on a leash in public places and make sure that all gates, fences and doors are secure. Ensure your pet is securely identified, so that you will be notified if it does escape. A microchip cannot be lost, modified or removed, and provides the best protection.

When the noises start

As soon as the fireworks start, lead your pet to the hiding place and encourage him to stay there. Provide a favourite chew toy, rawhide or raw bone. Don’t get cross with him when he is scared, it will only make him more frightened. If possible, sit in the room with the pet. Do not cuddle, baby or otherwise soothe the pet. Animals fundamentally only detect whether we are happy with them, or unhappy. All our soothing words and actions are interpreted as “it’s OK to be afraid, it’s OK to behave like this”, “there really must be something to be worried about”. Instead, just rest a firm hand on the animals back, and speak calmly. Provide praise and reward when you observe a lessening of the fear reaction – reduced trembling, pacing, dilated pupils etc. This serves to reinforce that you are in control – the pet has nothing to be worried about and they should react less to the fearful stimulus.. Try to keep your pet in a good mood by distracting him by playing lots of games and doing a little bit of training using rewards. This may stop your pet from becoming anxious, but don’t expect too much. If your pet is very frightened by the noises and cannot be encouraged to play, then lead him to the hideout. Loud music with a steady beat may mask the frightening sounds, so long as your pet is not frightened of the music itself. If you are worried about the effect fireworks will have on your pet please phone and make an appointment so that we can assess your pet and prescribe medication which can be used before the onset of fear to reduce reactions to fireworks (and thunderstorms etc). 

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