Fireworks and Your Pet

Published: 29 October 2018

We are again approaching that time of year when you will find a stand at the front of most superstores selling fireworks.  Even though fireworks can be purchased in the UK throughout the year, it is suddenly made a lot more accessible as we approach the 5th of November through to the 1st of January.  Both these nights are renowned for celebrations which includes firework displays, but also families enjoying the opportunity to set off their own fireworks.  Most of us, whether you be an adult or a child, find it exhilarating to be able to light a rocket, sending it sky high to explode in various patterns and colours.

Although most of the fireworks are set off on the 2 specific nights, fireworks normally occur on nights surrounding those dates as well.  In the case of Guy Fawkes night, various places/towns/villages will put on their own displays in order to bring the local community together in celebration.  How many of us have purchased fireworks, but been so excited to launch it that due to the anticipation did not wait until the date?  Instead as soon as it was dark, with excited children, launched one or two fireworks from the back of your garden and then again on the weekend launched more at random intervals?

Now most fireworks come with warnings, with the biggest being safety, as essentially you are playing with fire.  As we approach Guy Fawkes night, we will often start seeing adverts on the television reminding people about being responsible with fireworks and that it is always to be handled under adult supervision.  How many of us can actively say that we have seen warnings about fireworks and pets?  Of course, if you are a pet owner, you will be aware of how your pet reacts to fireworks and you will take the necessary steps to ensure your pet remains in a safe location.  However, even if your pet is fine with fireworks, have you considered your neighbours’ pets?  Remember, just because an animal may be in the house, it does not mean they are immune from the effects of the fireworks.  The RSPCA reckons that an estimated 45 percent of dogs in the UK shows signs of fear in relation to fireworks.

Imagine what it must be like for a dog.  You are happily lying down on your blanket on the floor, sleeping after having been for a walk earlier in the day before sunset.  Suddenly, you are woken up by a loud bang, followed by another and another.  You can not figure out where it is coming from and you try and hide from it, but there is no escape due to your sensitive hearing making it sound like it is constantly in the room with you.  Your owner sees your distress, tries to hold you and comfort you, but there is still no reprieve from this horrendous noise.  You start to bark in the hope that it will scare the noise away, but it does not work.  Then all of a sudden, there are no more loud bangs, however, you are now sitting by your owner shivering due to nervousness.  Once you get control again, you suddenly realise you need to go to the toilet and you walk towards the door.  Your owner opens the door for you, but just as you step out, another loud bang occurs.  Suddenly this feels even louder than before and closer.  You jump in fright and run back indoors, cowering under the table.  Eventually, the urge to urinate is too big, but you are afraid of going outside and embarrassingly, you go to the toilet inside the house.  This is something you have not done since a puppy, but you just could not help yourself.  What happened to you, you have always felt strong and confident, but now you are feeling on edge and fearful of the next loud noise.  Will it ever end…

Now, it is not our aim to try and make anyone feel guilty for wanting to enjoy fireworks, but as a Veterinary Practice, we want to encourage people to be responsible and considerate when it comes to the use of fireworks, especially where animals are concerned.  Therefore, if you are planning to enjoy fireworks this year at Guy Fawkes, New Year or at any other time.  consider the following advice:

  1. 1. Plan in advance as to when you are going to set off fireworks.
  2. 2. Do not set fireworks off at random intervals over the course of an evening/night or even over several days.
  3. 3. Inform people in your neighbourhood.
  4. 4. If there are others in your neighbourhood intending on launching their own fireworks, why not plan something together or launch your fireworks at a similar time.
  5. 5. Instead of buying your own fireworks, why not go to an organised fireworks display.
  6. 6. Keep your pets indoors.

As pet owners, there are a number of things we can do in preparation for fireworks:

  1. 1. When you first get a puppy or a kitten, consider desensitisation strategies. For example, you can get a desensitisation soundtrack that you play for them.  This can also be done when they are older, but it may take longer for the therapy to have effect.  Do note that desensitisation strategies alone is not always effective as it is not just the noise that can scare the animal, but also the associated vibrations.
  2. 2. Take your dog for walks during daylight hours during firework season.
  3. 3. Keep your dog indoors in the evenings and close windows and curtains to muffle the noise as much as possible.
  4. 4. Put on some music or the tv, which can mask some of the noise from the fireworks.
  5. 5. Provide them a safe, comfortable place in the house, i.e. a den.
  6. 6. There are products on the market that can help reduce stress in pets e.g. Zylkene, Adaptil collars, etc. You can contact us about what products are available or for further advice specific to your pet.
  7. 7. Use a Thunder Shirt
  8. 8. Ensure your cats are microchipped in case they are startled and run off if they are outside, or even if they escape out of the house.
  9. 9. For small animals partly cover their cages/pens with blankets so that an area can be hidden and soundproofed, but still allow for an area where they can look out.
  10. 10. Provide bedding in which small animals can burrow in.
  11. 11. Consider bringing them indoors. This may need some planning as some small animals may not be used to going indoors and you need to do it as a gradual process.

Remember, fireworks can be dangerous if misused.  Please observe the Safety Advice by the Kent Fire & Rescue service.  Remember, fireworks can not only cause harm to people, but they can to animals as well, whether this be domestic, farm or wild animals, so please be mindful of your surroundings and act responsibly.