Firework noise can reach up to 150 decibels, as loud as a jet engine, and dogs, cats and other pets are often particularly sensitive to noise, causing the period around 5 November to be traumatic and distressing for many.
Bonfire night is a fun time for adults and children, but many animals are extremely frightened of the loud noises and flashes that accompany fireworks. It’s important that owners recognise the signs of stress and follow professional advice on how to reduce them. Owners often ask me for help in the days around bonfire night; there is good advice that we can give at this time, but there is even more that can be done to help pets if some measures were taken sooner. I would encourage pet owners to visit their veterinary practice as soon as possible.
Some pets show obvious signs of distress, such as panting, drooling and attempts to escape, but there are also more subtle signs that owners should be aware of, including restlessness and toileting in the house. Cats often hide while rabbits may keep very still and thump the ground with their back feet.
Some Top Tips to reduce stress caused by fireworks are:
- Prepare a den for your pet around two weeks before bonfire night and give them praise when they are relaxed there, so they come to view it as a safe retreat.
- Provide background noise and close curtains and windows on nights when fireworks are expected.
- Use pheromone products next to the den and around the home. These are scents that we can’t smell but reduce a pet’s stress.
- Move small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to a quiet place indoors when fireworks are expected, and give lots of bedding to mask the sounds.
- Remain calm yourself. Try not to reassure your pet as this often inadvertently reinforces anxious behaviour. Never punish your pet – remember, if they toilet in the house it’s not their fault.
If your pet is severely distressed by fireworks or other noises, I would encourage pet owners to visit their vet to discuss treatment options. Firework phobia can be effectively treated with behaviour-modification techniques, which can achieve long-term success with professional input, owner commitment and patience.