Pop! Bang! Help Your Pet Cope with Firework Anxiety

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Fireworks may make us humans “ooh” and “aah”, but the same isn’t true for our furry and feathered friends. Just like thunderstorms, the loud, unexpected noises of fireworks can cause pets extreme distress. It’s therefore important to create a safe, calm environment for them. This will prevent them from hurting themselves or becoming lost in panic.

Many shelters report an increase in runaway cats and dogs after a night of fireworks. RSPCA veterinarians have even treated dogs who have pushed through glass windows in their attempts to flee. But when you consider that dogs hear four times the distance of humans, it’s clear why they’ll do anything to escape those bangs and booms. Read on for RSPCA NSW’s tips on helping your pet feel calm and safe during these times.

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Practice and prepare

In the weeks leading up to nights when you know there are going to be fireworks, it may help to play a CD of firework sounds to your pet. Begin by playing the CD at a low volume and engaging her in a fun activity, like playing with her favourite toy. Always stop if she shows signs of distress or discomfort. If she shows positive signs, you can gradually increase the volume. This will help her to become desensitised to the loud noises and prepare her for the real event.

On the day, ensure your pet is exercised and well fed before any real fireworks begin. This will help her de-stress, and be more inclined to nap once festivities begin.

Create a safe place

Animals can have a cut and run response to unexpected noises, sometimes ending up kilometres from home in their panic. Because of this, pets should be kept indoors whenever possible. Bring guinea pig and rabbit hutches inside too, and provide extra bedding so your pocket pets can burrow and feel safe. Secure gates and fences, and ensure horses are securely stabled, preferably at a location away from the noise.

Creating a calm, secure area for your pet inside your house will also help him feel protected. Close the curtains and put his favourite blanket or soft toy in a small, confined hiding place. A cupboard or a shower stall is ideal. Otherwise, allow your pet to curl up on a warm bed. It may also help to play music or turn the television on to mask the sounds.

Wherever your pet is, remove any sharp objects that could cause injury to a panicking animal.

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Look out for and react to the signs of stress

Staying home with your pet will help him feel comforted. If this isn’t possible, try to arrange for someone to check on him.

When the noises begin, keep an eye out for subtle stress signs. Dogs may lick their lips, pant or yawn. Signs of severe stress can include heavy panting, shaking and shivering. If your pet does show signs that he is frightened, never raise your voice or punish him. Speak soothingly, stroke him, try to distract him, and reward calm behaviour with playtime and treats. Enrichments such as a filled Kong or a nice bone to chew are both great distractors for dogs.

Speak to your veterinarian

If you are concerned about your pet’s ability to cope, speak to your veterinarian about a noise management plan and possible treatment options.

Keep identification up to date

In the event that your pet does manage to escape, keeping microchip and registration details up to date is vital. You should also ensure your pet is wearing an identification tag.

Locating a lost pet

Losing your beloved pet can be devastating. You don’t know where they are, whether they’re hurt or not, or if they’ll ever find their way back home. If you have lost your pet, there are a number of things you can do to find them again, from posting fliers to contacting your local pound and animal hospital. Click here to follow our step-by-step guide.

If you haven’t already, consider using our Pet Reunite service, where we use our extensive animal database to search for your pet listed amongst the stray animals. Click here to get started.