With Bonfire night only two months away, I’d like to talk about firework anxiety and phobia. To be honest, we seem to have fireworks being set off throughout the year but it does get pretty intense around November 5th. There are a few big displays in the Deal and Sandwich area to keep an eye out for. If your pet gets scared about loud noises then I really advise being proactive and prevent things getting gradually worse. I hope that by taking steps now to reduce the fear response, the night itself will hopefully be a lot less stressful for everyone!
Here are a few points to think about in the lead up to firework season.
- Build a den! This works well for both cats and dogs. We can make our pets feel a lot more secure by providing an enclosed ‘safe’ area that feels like their own. Ideally, try to pick an area away from the windows and near the centre of your home. If your pet has already picked a hiding place where they retreat to when they are scared, then it may be a good idea to build around this. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate grand design; even just a table or crate that you can cover with blankets would work. By building this now and getting them use to it, your pet will feel comfortable in this area by the time the fireworks start.
- Pheromone products such as Feliway and Adaptil, can help your pet feel secure and more relaxed. They come in a variety of forms; plug in diffusers, collars and sprays for blankets. Working out whether your pet benefits from them before a stressful event is always a good idea so that you will know whether it’s something that you have in your toolbox when needed. Pheromones in the den area are often beneficial.
- Most pets will benefit from calming products such as Nutracalm, Calmex and Zylkene (there are many on the market and I am not sponsored by any!). Again, it is definitely worth working out whether your pet benefits from them before a stressful event.
- Anxiety coats, such as Thundershirt – I have not used these myself but have heard a lot of clients speak positively about them. The theory behind them is that they apply constant, gentle pressure around the body; much like swaddling an infant. If you are keen to try something like this with your pet then please introduce them gradually and well before firework season. Adding a new coat in an already stressful situation could make things worse.
- With some pets it can be possible to reduce their fearful reaction by playing the sounds of fireworks and letting them acclimatise to it. This isn’t suitable for all pets, especially if they have extreme noise phobias, so please chat with a vet or behaviourist before you start.
- Make sure the details on your pet’s microchip are up to date. During stressful situations the fight or flight response kicks in. Sadly, this is often overlooked and if becomes separated from you then it is crucial that these details are correct so that you can be reunited.
- Keep a look out for advertised displays and make a note on the calendar so that you can minimise surprises. The big ones in our local area to keep an eye out for are; Warden House School Display in Deal, Eastry Primary School Fireworks Night in Sandwich, Ripple Bonfire Night and the Dover Social Club display.
- Plan a trip to the vets if your pets have severe noise phobias as there are stronger medications that can be used if needed. Make sure you visit well in advance of firework season so that a thorough plan can be formulated and tested.
Here are a few points for closer to Firework Night:
- Avoid walking your dog at night when fireworks are being set off.
- Keep your cat indoors at night during firework season.
- Stay calm yourself. Pets are very perceptive and can tell when we are nervous, stressed and fearful. Try not to react to the fireworks and continue with your normal routine so that your pet can see that the noise doesn’t mean danger.
- Close your windows and curtains to muffle the sounds and block out the flashing lights.
- Distracting your pet with food can help. Slow feeding bowls and food puzzles can help provide distraction for longer.
- Plan a night in so that you’re there if your pet needs your reassurance.
I hope this helps give you a few ideas on how we can help our pets around fireworks night, let me know what works for you and if you have found any great ways to keep your pets calm. As always feel free to contact me if you have any questions!