1:00 AM 4th November 2023
Keep Your Pet Safe On Bonfire Night!
Image credit: Shutterstock
With almost half (5.4 million) of dogs in the UK scared of fireworks, according to the RSPCA, Bonfire Night on 5 November is not always a cause for celebration for pet owners. Firework season can be filled with anxiety as people struggle to keep their beloved pets feeling safe and secure.
Pets can develop a negative association with loud noises at any time, so it's essential to be aware of the signs of firework anxiety. If your pet is acting unusual, being disruptive, hiding, excessively licking their lips or pacing, this could signify they're feeling stressed about Bonfire Night.
To help anxious pet owners this firework season, TrustedHousesitters have teamed up with Veterinary Surgeon Dr Lily Richards to share the best advice they've learnt over the years.
You can keep your furry friends feeling safe and sound during firework season with these five top tips.
1. Use spaghetti to desensitise your pets to firework sounds
Dr Richards explains: If your pet is anxious or noise-phobic and historically gets stressed at fireworks, consider starting desensitisation training as soon as possible. Desensitisation audio is available online for free. Initially, the sound is barely audible background noise, and gradually increases in volume to reduce your pet's reaction to anxious stimuli over time".
Alternatively, look for items you have around the house to stimulate the sudden pop of fireworks. Snapping spaghetti is a good place to start if your pet is extremely anxious. You can then build up to louder noises, such as popping bubble wrap. Positive reinforcement is key here, so make sure you're rewarding your pet with pats and treats after each loud noise. Soon, they'll stop associating sudden noises with fear (and probably start sniffing around you for treats instead!).
2. Consider swaddling
Image credit: Shutterstock.
If your dog is experiencing firework anxiety, swaddling can help. Dr Richards says, "Anti-anxiety wraps (Thunder shirts/ tightly fitting T-shirts) can be considered. They're designed to touch pressure points and calm your pet in the same way as swaddling a baby. However, some pets may not tolerate this, so try it out ahead of bonfire night to see whether it'll work for your pet."
You can buy purpose-made swaddles online or in pet shops, but you can also make a DIY swaddle with a tea towel, scarf, or other fabric secured with an elastic band or hair tie. Make sure there's not too much pressure, and you're not tightly fastening anything close to your pet's neck, as this could be dangerous. If you make a DIY swaddle, monitor your pet at all times to make sure they're safe and comfortable.
3. Adjust your walk and meal times
While routines are great for pets, consider altering your walk and meal times during firework season. Dr Richards suggests you "Walk dogs and feed them earlier in the evening, bringing them into the house before fireworks are expected to start. Keep cats inside and consider bringing outdoor hutched animals inside or covering the hutch with a thick blanket if this isn't possible."
Amending your walk and meal times ensures your pet is home, fed, walked and settled before fireworks begin, and their anxiety won't negatively affect their appetite.
If you have no choice but to be outdoors with your dog whilst there are fireworks, make sure they stay on a short lead and that their tag and microchip are up to date in case they panic and bolt.
4. Create a safe space
Dr Richards explains: "Create a calm, quiet environment for your pet to relax in. Include toys, a comfy bed, and their favourite treat in their "safe space". Consider closing the curtains to limit any flashes that may startle them and reduce stimulation. Familiar background noise such as the TV or radio can be useful in disguising the unfamiliar pops, bangs and whizzes that overstimulate and upset our pets."
Crate training can be useful for dogs – for many, the space becomes their own safe haven, especially if covered by a blanket to make it feel even more private.
5. Try natural remedies
"Natural remedies, such as Zylkene or Calmaid containing natural biological products like L-tryptophan (a precursor to the mood stabilising hormone serotonin) can be helpful if started a few days before the stressful event and continued until a few days after," explains Dr Richards. These can be bought from online retailers such as Amazon, at Pets at Home, or local pet stores.
Pheromones can also work wonders: "Calming Pheromone plug-ins such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats, which contain a synthetic copy of the natural appeasing pheromone created by a lactating mother to calm their young, can be comforting and reassuring during stressful times, such as Bonfire Night."
For more top tips for pet owners to help keep pets stress free this Bonfire Night, visit https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/blog/owners/top-tips-to-keep-your-pet-stress-free-during-firework-season