fireworks

FUN WITH FIREWORKS!?

FIREWORKS! FUN OR FRIGHTENING?

 As the night’s draw in the chance of fireworks being let off increases. In Sussex Bonfire Season begins in September and continues through to December, and in other areas of the country fireworks may be use to celebrate Divali and at New Year.

Many pets are scared by fireworks, but they are here to stay…so what can you do?

PART ONE; DEALING WITH A DISPLAY

Dogs and cats and fireworks

Ideally you should start desensitising your pets to firework noises well in advance of bonfire season (see Part 2 Prevention) but it is easy to forget how upset your pet got until the nights start drawing in.

If bonfire season has crept up on you don’t try to start a desensitisation programme; instead plan to help your dog or cat cope.

Many dogs and cats like to retreat to a safe den during fireworks so make sure they have one. For dogs this might mean a crate covered in a blanket, or putting their bed behind the sofa. Cardboard boxes work well for cats! Introduce these safe dens in advance of bonfire season if possible. Some dogs and cats respond well to tight fitting calming vests called Thunder Shirts.

Consider pheromones which can help to relax pets. DAP (for dogs) comes as a collar, diffuser, or spray; and Feliway for cats comes as a diffuser or spray. Both are available from your vet or online, and should be used for a couple of weeks before you expect fireworks to start. Your vet might also suggest herbal and nutraceutical calmers. Some of these act very quickly, others should be given for a week or so before you expect fireworks. For more serious firework phobias your vet may prescribe sedative or anxiolytic drugs, but be sure to book an appointment to discuss these well ahead of time. A new, very effective gel is available which acts quickly to calm pets with noise phobias, even if they are already showing signs of fear, but this can only be prescribed after consultation with your vet. Some owners find a big carbohydrate meal in the evening helps their dogs be calmer during fireworks, but don’t do this if your dog tends to have vomiting or diarrhoea when stressed.

Keep your pet indoors when you know a bonfire event is planned. As people may let fireworks off outside planned event times it is sensible to lock cat flaps after dark and to ensure your dog has been walked before dusk. Close curtains and turn on the lights so flashes outside are less noticeable. If your dog is particularly afraid of fireworks it would be sensible to take him into the garden on a well-fitting collar or harness and lead to toilet during fireworks season, just in case one goes off. Also make sure the garden is secure to reduce the risk of escape.

During a display have the TV or radio on to mask sounds and as a distraction. Some dogs can be distracted during fireworks by play or training exercises, others will want to cuddle up for security, and others will feel best in their den. Be guided by your dog and don’t try to make him do anything he doesn’t want to. Don’t leave dogs which are likely to be distressed by fireworks on their own during displays. The easiest solution for some dogs living close to organised displays can be to go and visit a friend in another village for the evening.

Horses and fireworks

Most horses will be safest in their stables during firework displays, however make sure someone is watching them and can take action if they become afraid. Some horse will react badly if in an enclosed area as they can feel trapped, and will be better released into a paddock. If your horse is nervous prepare for a nearby event by rugging and booting them to reduce the risk of injury. Your vet may also be able to prescribe either herbal or nutraceutical calmers, or sedatives for badly affected horses. Alternatively consider moving very nervous horses to stables or field further away from the event.

Livestock and fireworks

Livestock will startle at the beginning of a display but usually settle fairly quickly when they realise there is no harm. Like horses they may react more badly to being in a confined space. Move sensitive livestock such as in calf cows and pregnant ewes as far from the event as possible and ensure that fences are secure and safe to reduce the risk of injuries.

Small pets and fireworks

Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs being kept outside could be scared by the noise and flashes of fireworks so consider bringing their hutch inside during bonfire season. If you notice a decrease in how much your rabbit or guinea pig is eating visit the vet as stress can cause gut stasis, which can be serious if left untreated.