It might seem odd that we’re advising you to start thinking about Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in August, but your pets will be thanking you if you do.
Most cats and dogs will be affected by fireworks as they have acute senses when it comes to loud bangs and bright flashes. However, some pets will have an abnormal level of fear, or a noise phobia. It’s important to talk to your vet about what can be done to help your pet through firework season particularly, bouts of thunder & lightening and other occasions with lots of noise.
Signs your pet has a fear of loud noises:
There are many types of behaviour that could indicate your dog or cat is scared of loud noises. Along with the more obvious signs such as trembling and shaking, here are some other common indicators:
Cats and Dogs
- Cowering or hiding behind the sofa
- Trying to run away or escape
- Going to the toilet inside
- Refusing to eat
- Barking incessantly
- Digging up the carpet
- Restlessness, e.g. pacing and panting
- Clinging to their owner
- Restlessness, e.g. hiding under a bed / in a box
- Over grooming
What can you do?
Talk to your vet
If your pet is exhibiting abnormal behaviours, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a fear of something. It’s important to find out if there are any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your pet’s change in behaviour, so it’s a good idea to book a health check with your Vet.
In a veterinary study, research suggested that dogs with noise fear should be assessed for pain as some of the behaviours displayed were similar – read the study here.
Microchip your pet
Microchipping dogs is the law, and it should be for cats too. If an escaped pet gets brought into a veterinary clinic or handed to a pet warden, they will be scanned for a microchip.
If the pet has been microchipped and the owner information is up to date, the pair can be quickly reunited. With no microchip or a microchip with outdated owner information, getting your pet back can be tricky, and sometimes impossible. Microchipping is a quick, simple and affordable procedure. Get your pet booked in today.
Your vet may recommend using calming remedies to help your pet deal with scary situations and loud bangs. These come in plug-in diffusers, sprays, collars and feeding products. Diffusers and sprays release a natural comforting pheromone into the local environment to help soothe your pet. Most of these products require being started well in advance of firework season for the best results, so it’s important to talk to your vet as soon as possible.
Some dogs especially that are truly phobic, may be prescribed appropriate medication by your vet to help them cope with the fear.
Start a desensitisation programme early
Ideally you will have been introducing your pet to loud noises since they were a puppy, but if that wasn’t possible, the earlier in the year you can start implementing a desensitisation programme at home, the better.
You can find a number of different programmes online, we particularly like this one here by Zylkene
Build your pet a ‘safe zone’ den
Build your cat or dog a den to provide them with a safe place to go when they do get scared. Dogs often like small, enclosed areas and cats like dark areas hidden away from people. Make your den in advance of firework season so they don’t associate this place only with scary situations. Line it with soft bedding and try putting their toys and some treats in regularly to encourage them to feel comfortable with this space.
Other things you can do to keep your pet calm during Firework season and occasions with loud noises:
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise during the day when you know fireworks or loud noises are likely to occur in the evening.
- Keep your pet inside during fireworks with human companionship.
- Once all your pets are inside, lock the doors and windows to prevent them from bolting.
- Have a TV or a radio playing in the background to dull the problematic noise.
- Try and get your pet to play with something fun to keep them occupied, but don’t force them.
- Keep curtains closed in the evenings.
- Reward your pet for good behaviour and don’t punish them for what you deem to be bad or undesirable behaviour, as it’s most likely a result of them being scared.
- Don’t react to the fireworks yourself.
- Don’t take your dog to a firework display.
Preparation is key when it comes to dealing with pets who are scared of loud noises. Talk to your vet about what can be done to help your individual pet, and get them checked for any underlying health concerns. Start preparing well in advance of firework season, and remember that your cat or dog may well be frightened, so bear that in mind when they exhibit different or undesirable behaviours.
It’s important to note that results can vary widely with calming remedies and desensitisation programmes, and they won’t work for all pets. If your cat or dog has a true noise phobia, they will need more intense support from an experienced behavioural veterinarian and/or prescription medication. If left unmanaged, abnormal behaviours can get worse over time.
If you would like to book an appointment with one of our vets for a health check or to talk about preparing for firework season, get in touch with our team today.