Pet Health: Preparing for Bonfire Night

The right preparation ahead of Bonfire Night can mean your pet doesn't get frightened by fireworks
The right preparation ahead of Bonfire Night can mean your pet doesn't get frightened by fireworks

Vet Darren Storey brings you the latest news from Northlands Veterinary Hospital.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November!

“Why are you talking of fireworks so far in advance,” I can hear you say.

Well, in the UK we rarely just stick to November 5, with some places having displays and parties weeks beforehand.

Some of your pets are very nervous with loud noises and the like; and if you wish to help them then the earlier we start the better.

Any animal can be afraid of fireworks and loud noises, but we commonly associate it more with nervous dogs; however do not forget the others though, like rabbits, guinea pigs and the like.

One online survey conducted by the PDSA in 2013 showed that 61 per cent of UK owners reported their pets are afraid of fireworks.

Behaviours

Certain behaviours in your pet can indicate fear or stress and include things like:

Cowering or hiding

Trying to run away or escape (including things like digging at the carpet)

Soiling the house

Restlessness (pacing, panting, over-grooming)

Begging for attention/climbing on you to get closer

With dogs specifically, barking incessantly

Tips

Ensure you update all your pets’ identification, eg microchips and collars; as some may try to escape when they hear the fireworks.

A few weeks before the season build a den for your pet so they have a ‘safe place’ to rest in.

Familiarise them with it several weeks beforehand.

Put this in the room where they feel most comfortable and ensure it is large enough for them to sit and stand.

Dogs like familiar smells so line the den with blankets, towels or old clothes.

Treats and toys can be useful as a distraction in the den but also it is an association with positive experiences for them.

Cover the den to help muffle sounds.

For cats follow the “N+1” rule. This means you should have one more hiding place than the number of cats you have. So, for example, if you have three cats then you need four hiding places.

Sound desensitisation can be useful

There have been many studies that show this is effective in dogs, cats and horses.

In fact, it is similar to training programs police dogs and horses go through before being put into public situations.

They work by gradually exposing your pet to a tiny amount of sound and slowly increasing it over time.

On the nights the fireworks occurs

Once all pets are inside ensure doors, windows and cat flaps are secure.

For smaller pets ensure all cages are closed.

Draw the curtains and turn on the TV/radio to dull the sounds

Be present with them as a familiar face to give them comfort.

Try not to react to the fireworks yourself.

Ignore unusual behaviour; this includes if they are trying to be over affectionate.

By giving them more attention than normal you may inadvertently reinforce that behaviour.

Do not punish or get angry with them if they show odd behaviours; this will make them uneasy.

What about medication?

There are certain products available that may help your pet to feel more relaxed during these stressful periods.

They include things like pheromone diffusers and tablets.

However, please speak to us first before considering using these.

What about wildlife?

Yes, let’s not forget that we have some responsibility for the wildlife in and around our property. Simple little things help.

Only build bonfires less than an hour before you intend to light them.

If you build them days or a week in advance then they provide a nice shelter for animals such as hedgehogs, rats and mice.

Also, douse them when you are finished.

Clean up all firework debris, including metal supports, cardboard and sparklers.

Try to place your bonfire and fireworks away from bushes and trees to minimise impact on possible nesting birds.

There is so much to talk about on this topic but I hope I have given you a small glimpse of some things to help you and your pets.

Whether you are a client of Northlands or not we will happily give you more advice if you need it.

Please call 01536 485543 and ask to speak to a clinical member of staff.