New Year is closing in, which means the firework shows are right around the corner. For most of us it is a joyful and exciting time, but for our pets it’s nerve-wracking. What can we do to make this time of the year as pleasant as possible for our pets, and keep them safe?
How to make your pet as comfortable as possible?
- Create a safe “bunker” for your pet, preferably a while before the fireworks are expected to happen. Make it comfy, with their bed, water bowl, toys, a piece of your clothing with your smell, etc. Let them hide there whenever they feel like it.
- On the day when fireworks are expected to happen, play soothing music or white noise to mask the sound of the fireworks.
- Keep your curtains closed during the fireworks to keep any light flashes out.
- If possible, physically distance your pet from the noise. For very anxious pets, you could consider taking them out of the city, and move to more rural areas where the fireworks are less.
- Comfort your pet when they are scared/anxious. No punishing!
- Play games with your pet, if they are interested.
- Feed your pet treats/chews.
How to keep your pet safe?
- Keep your dog on their lead at all times. Plan potty breaks on timings when it’s relatively calm outside. Be mindful when holding the lead that your dog might make a very sudden and abrupt bolt when scared, be especially mindful when using a flexi lead. Make sure that collar and/or harness are escape proof.
- Keep your cat inside, and secure the cat flap, so they can’t run out.
- Make sure your house is escape proof, keep windows and doors closed.
- Make sure your pets are micro-chipped, and the details connected to the microchip are up to date.
- Make sure your pets wear a tag with your contact details.
During the year, you can work on “desensitizing” your pet to loud noises, like fireworks, by controlled exposure and positive reinforcement. Desensitization takes training, time and patience, but will be a long-term solution to lower noise-based anxiety in your pet. If you have a fearful pet and want to desensitize them, it is always advised to work closely together with a pet behaviorist. Many people, with all the best intentions, try to train their pet themselves and unintentionally make the problem worse by using wrong methods, skipping steps, or going too fast. A pet behaviorist will look at your situation and pet, and make a suitable step-by-step plan to help your pet overcome their fear. They can also teach you how to train your pet the right way, using positive reinforcement, and give you other tips.
There are several medications that can be given to pets that are really anxious during fireworks. Some of these medications need to be started a few days before the fireworks are happening, so a certain amount of medication can build up inside the body of your pet. So make sure you contact your vet well before the fireworks are expected to happen. Your vet will also help decide which medication will be best for your pet, and calculate the right dosage.
A medication that needs to be stayed away from is Acepromazine. This used to be the go-to medication for noise-phobia in pets, and is still prescribed by some vets. Recent studies have shown that this medication is not suitable, and in fact can make the fear worse. This medication is a sedative and will scramble perceptions. Besides this, pets will still feel and remember the fear. They will move less, as they are drowsy from the sedation, so they might look calmer. But, as you can imagine, feeling fearful, having a scrambled perception, and not being able to move as much, can have a devastating effect on an already fearful pet.
Besides medication, you could look into using pheromones for your pet. Pheromones are available as diffuser, collar and spray. These appeasing pheromones will make your pet feel more confident and relaxed.
There are other tools on the market to help pets with anxiety for noises. One of these tools is the ThunderShirt. The Thundershirt is a tight body wrap which helps some pets to feel calmer during loud noises due to the pressure it applies on the body. You could also make your own “ThunderShirt” with cloth and the right wrapping technique.
Pets and fireworks
Often not the best combination. But with the right precautions we can try and make our pets as comfortable as possible when fireworks happen. For a lot of pets, it is a frightening time nonetheless. We hope to see everyone back in the New Year, and we wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. Do you want to know more about our pet sitting service around New Year, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help.