Fireworks and anxiety in pets

There’s nothing more spectacular than a fireworks display to bring in the New Year. We know it’s a joyful experience, but for our sensitive-eared pets it’s a bit like the end of the world. Explosions, bangs and even shrieks of delight can cause stress and send them into horrible fits of anxiety.

The good news about this is that we can help. It is important that you contact your vet very early in the piece if you think your pet has a fearful reaction to fireworks and loud noises.

Training to alter anxious behaviour

Your dog might bark excessively out of fear after hearing fireworks, or just go nuts with anxiety and tear the place up. With patience and training, it is possible to desensitise your dog to the sound of fireworks.

Reward calm behaviour and try to ignore their distress (easier said than done!). Never, ever punish your pet for bad behaviour; always find a positive to reward.

Tips to keep you pet calm

The trick is to help your pet feel safe and protected. Here are a few things you can do to help your pet feel as comfortable as possible if you know fireworks are going to happen:

  1. Keep your pet inside in a safe room – keeping your pet inside with human supervision is a good idea. Keep the curtains closed, set up a cardboard box with lots of towels placed over it to dull any sounds. This is a great idea if your pet is trained beforehand to understand that this is a safe place.
  2. Ask a friend to look after your pets – or take your dog to doggy day care if you’re going to be out. This is very important – please ensure your pet is not left alone.
  3. Play music to disguise the noisy fireworks – pop on some soothing sounds an hour or so before the fireworks start.
  4. Turn the TV onto your pet’s favourite show – another distraction technique; try David Attenborough for your dog and a fish screensaver for your cat.
  5. Play some fun games with treats – distract them from the noise and focus on the game and the rewards that come with it.
  6. Spray a calming pheromone diffuser or collar – Feliway and Adaptil offer great products to help calm your pets in times of stress. They provide products with a comforting scent that your pet will associate with weaning as a puppy or a safe place for cats where they rub their cheeks. You can ask your vet what product would be best suited to your pet.
  7. Wrap them up in their favourite blanky – there is truth in the security blanket! You can also use a thunder shirt to comfort them.
  8. Seek professional help – If your pet settles quickly and is not destructive, then this will most likely can be handled at home. If not, it is best to see your veterinarian for professional advice. Many pets need calming medication over Christmas and New Year as their anxiety levels can become extremely high.

What to do if the fireworks noise is a surprise

Sometimes people don’t wait for New Year and they let off a bunch of fireworks unannounced. If your pet does a runner, that’s when microchipping and a collar with your phone number on it count. Local pet finder groups online know your pain and may help get your four-legged family member home safe too.

How to prevent fireworks phobias

Preventing fireworks phobias early on can be the key to successful festive seasons for years to come. Keeping your pet inside when there are fireworks and staying at home with your pet for the first fireworks season can be helpful to gauge how they are coping. Also, having lots of yummy treats on hand for your pet, so you can play games, have fun and reward them for being relaxed when fireworks are happening.