You know your pet better than anyone.
When they aren’t themselves – look for a natural way to help them cope.

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Firework / Loud Noises

Fireworks make our celebrations fun by bringing that extra element of noise and excitement, but for our cats or dogs – it can be a very confusing and stressful situation.

In a survey*, 51% of veterinary professionals say they have seen an increase in pets with phobias such as fireworks in the last two years, whilst 40% of dog owners (3.6 million dogs) report their dog is afraid of fireworks.

Although it’s impossible to control when fireworks occur, you as an owner can help your pets cope and make sure their fireworks nights are as easy as they can be.

*PDSA PAW Report 2018

How do I know if my pets need help coping with fireworks?

In most cases, cats and dogs are likely to struggle with fireworks at some point in their lives. Animals have acute senses – which means every flash and bang can be unexpected and alarming.

If your pets display any of the following behaviours they need your help:

Behaviours in dogs

dog

Excessive barking

Digging up the carpet
Restlessness, such as pacing and panting

Cowering or hiding behind the sofa

Trying to run away or escape

Going to the toilet in the house

Behaviours in cats

cat

Nervousness, i.e. hiding under a sofa

Over grooming

Trying to run away or escape

Toileting outside the litter tray
Excessive meowing
Scratching excessively on the furniture

How can I help them?

Start by speaking to your vet in advance of fireworks season, but also consider long term behavioural therapy.

A few weeks before:

1. Talk to an expert

Discuss the behaviours displayed by your pets during loud noise or fireworks with your vet practice or behaviourist. They will help you take the necessary steps for the short term management of stressful situations. 

2. Build a den

It is important that your pets have their own safe place with which they have positive associations. A den is useful all year round, but is especially good for the fireworks season.

3. Give them Zylkene calming supplement

A calming supplement like Zylkene can help dogs and cats cope during firework displays. It is best to start Zylkene at least three days before the event is expected and continue throughout the fireworks period. Keep in mind that fireworks season can last for a few weeks – and in some areas, well into the New Year.

4. Update their microchip / ID

Your cat or dog might try to run away if fireworks go off near them. Just in case, make sure that the data linked to their microchips and the information on their tags is fully up to date so they will be reunited with you more quickly. It is better to do it sooner rather than later as some people will start setting off fireworks as soon as they are available in the shops.

Please note: The details held by your vet practice are not linked to your pets microchip

5. Walk your dog when it is still light outside

This reduces the possibility of exposure to fireworks if people set them off at early nightfall.  Autumn and winter will reduce your window due to the shorter days – so giving yourself time to walk your dog earlier may need to be considered.

'On the night':

Do

  • Walk your dog earlier in the day.
  • Bring all of your pets inside before nightfall.
  • Make sure all windows, doors and cat flaps are securely closed to avoid them bolting out of available exits.
  • Provide extra litter trays for cats if they are not used to being confined to the house for long periods.
  • Close the curtains and switch on the TV or radio to dull the external noise.
  • Ignore unusual behaviour, such as panting, shaking or whining – unless they come to you first for reassurance.
  • Play with a toy and see if your cat or dog wants to join in (if they want to).
  • Provide distractions like treats or a brand new toy.
  • Keep cats and dogs inside the house for as long as the fireworks are being let off.

Don't

  • Leave your cat or dog by themselves while fireworks are going off, they will be more relaxed with you there in their familiar environment.
  • Overwhelm them with affection, give no more than usual. Cats and dogs often pick up on their owner’s worry and overcompensating could make things worse.
  • Force your cat or dog to come to you, especially if they are in their hiding place or den.
  • React to the fireworks yourself.
  • Be tempted to take your dog to a fireworks display – it is unsafe and could cause serious stress.
  • Punish or get angry with your cat or dog – this will only make them more uneasy.

Long term management:

Once this high risk time has passed, it’s a good time to consider how you can best manage your pet’s situation for the long term – making it less frightening next time.

If left unmanaged, these reactions can get worse over time, resulting in increasingly uncontrolled behaviour. It can also have the effect of worsening their response to other unexpected loud noises such as doors slamming or thunder.

Sound desensitisation (Sound therapy)

One of the most commonly used and effective methods is using a “sound desensitisation” programme. There have been studies that show this to be useful for dogs and cats.

The training is similar to programmes that police dogs and horses go through before being put into public work situations. They work by gradually exposing your pet to a tiny amount of sound and then increasing it slowly over time. It can be a long process, but it is worth it in the end.

Our online sound desensitisation programme includes clear written and verbal instructions, plus a practice track to help get you started.

Ask your vet practice or qualified behaviourist for more advice.

Other common situations that can be stressful to your dog or cat where Zylkene can help: