Bonfire night can be a stressful time for our pets. It is estimated that around 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear of fireworks. Animals have very acute hearing, and the loud bangs and whistles can even cause them actual pain in their ears. However there are things we can do as owners to help limit the fear and anxiety our animals may feel over this stressful time of year.
Many animals exhibit signs of stress when fireworks are being let off. Sometimes this distress is obvious, such as whining, shaking and trying to hide, but the signs can be more subtle too. For example, panting and yawning in dogs are both signs that indicate they are stressed. Be aware of your pets and how they are reacting to any sights and sounds of fireworks. Even if they appear to be calm, it is advisable to follow the tips below, to ensure a safe and stress free bonfire night for you and your animals.
Tips for Dogs & Cats
- Walk your dog earlier in the day before the fireworks start, and keep dogs and cats inside when the fireworks start. Never leave your dog tied up outside while fireworks are being let off (e.g. outside a shop while you go inside) and avoid leaving them in the garden or in your car.
- Make sure windows and doors are kept closed and block off catflaps to both stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. Draw the curtains and turn on the TV or radio (as long as your animals are used to them) to help block out some of the noise of the fireworks.
- Ensure your pets are wearing some form of easily readable identification (ID) – even in the house. Whilst it is a legal requirement that dogs have a microchip, it is also strongly reccomended for cats too. That way, if they do run away or get lost, they have a better chance of being quickly reunited with you.
- Many animals like to find themselves a ‘den’ where they feel safe and comfortable – such under a bed. Do not try to coax them out – they are just trying to find safety, and should not be disturbed. It’s fine to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide away, then let them do so instead.
- Stay calm and act normally, as your pet will pick up if you are feeling anxious and this will distress your pet more. Give your pet lots of praise for calm behaviour. Never get angry with your pet for behaviour shown as a result of fear from fireworks – shouting at a frightened pet will only make them even more stressed.
- A herbal calmer, such as the Woof & Brew Anxiety Tonic, can help some dogs relax during stressful situations, whilst pheromone diffusers such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats can also prove very effective. If you know your pet hates loud, high pitched or sudden noises and are likely to become very distressed over the firework season, it is advisable to speak to your vet well in advance, as they may be able prescribe calming medication.
Tips for Horses & Ponies
- Try to ensure that fireworks are not set off near your horse’s field or stable. Remember to tell neighbours and any local firework display organisers where your horses are kept, so that they can ensure fireworks are set off in the opposite direction and well away from them.
- Keep your horse in a familiar environment, with their companions, to make them feel secure. Try to keep your horse to it’s normal routine as much as possible. If your horse is normally stabled overnight then keep them stabled. If they are normally out in the field, it is best keep them turned out, as long as their paddock is secure and not near any fireworks display area.
- Make sure that either you or someone experienced stays with your horse if you know fireworks are being set off near to where they are being kept. This way you can observe your horse’s behaviour, ensure they remain as safe and calm as possible, and respond to its reactions appropriately. If you need to leave your horse in the care of another person during a fireworks show, make sure you leave clear instructions and contact details for both yourself and your vet, just in case any problems arise.
- If there has been a fireworks display near where your horse is kept, check the area for remnants of the fireworks. Make sure you put anything that could be dangerous to your horse safely in the bin.
- If you are concerned about your horse becoming stressed over the bonfire night period, there are many equine calmers available which can help your horse stay relaxed. Global Herbs FireworX is a popular natural calmer, which is safe to be fed daily over the period leading up to bonfire night. However, if you know your horse get stressed and reacts particularly badly to loud, sudden noises speak to your vet in advance, as they may be able prescribe a stronger calming medication.
- Don’t take the risk of riding if you think there is a chance fireworks might be set off.
- Most importantly, be careful yourself. Try not to get in the way if your horse becomes startled or frightened, as you may get hurt.
Tips for Rabbits & Other Small Animals
- Hutches, cages and enclosures should, wherever possible, be brought into a quiet room indoors, or into a garage or shed.
- If you are unable bring your pet’s cage inside, turn it around so it faces a wall or fence rather than the open garden to help block out the flashes from fireworks.
- Cover aviaries or hutches with thick blankets or an old duvet to help block out the sight and sound of the fireworks, but remember to make sure there is enough ventilation.
- Provide your pet extra bedding to burrow into so it feels safe. A cardboard box full of hay, with holes cut in the sides for easy access, in their hutch gives them an extra place to hide to help them feel more safe and secure.
- Rabbits are social animals, so make sure to keep them with the companion(s) they’re familiar with, to help limit stress.