Fireworks can make celebrations exciting for us, but they’re not always fun for our pets. In a recent survey*, 44% of pet owners reported that their pets are scared of fireworks. Fortunately, there are things we can do to help keep them calmer and safer. It’s up to you as their owner to help pets cope and make sure they stay calm when the fireworks go off. Here are a few tips to consider if your pet experiences anxiety during fireworks season:
- Start planning in advance! A few weeks before, talk to your veterinarian or behaviorist about any changes you can make in the short term to help your pet. Additionally, build a “den” for your pet so they have their own safe place with which they have positive associations. This gives them somewhere to hide when they are uneasy or worried. Make sure the den is in a place where they usually like to hide and that they have enough space to stretch out and stand up/turn around.
- Consider starting them on a calming supplement, such as Zylkene, in advance to try and help them cope. There are several options available for pets who become especially anxious during fireworks. Talk to your veterinarian about the best options depending on their reactions to the noise.
- Update their identification! Some pets try to run away when fireworks go off near them. Ensure that your pet’s ID tag is up to date and, if possible, get them micro-chipped. This will ensure you are reunited with your pet sooner if they do go missing.
- Walk your dog when it’s still light outside. Try to ensure your dog does not need to go outside when fireworks are going off. Prep them in advance for an earlier nighttime routine and, when finished, keep them inside with the windows and doors securely closed. This will reduce the change that they will run off. Don’t take a dog to a fireworks display if they experience anxiety from the noise.
- Provide distractions. Consider turning on the TV or radio during the fireworks and providing your pet with a new favorite toy. This will help drown out some of the noise and keep your pet distracted when they would otherwise be focused on what’s happening outside. Treat training is also an option and can be practiced in advance of fireworks season. If they are focused enough, you can take them to their “safe” room, with background music, and perform basic commands while rewarding the completion of the task with treats. If they are too concerned with the noises outside to respond to basic commands for treats, you might be able to distract them short term by simply providing small pieces of their most favorite treats in rapid succession to further distract them from the noise.
- Watch for subtle signs of noise phobias early in your pet’s life. A behavioral issue such as sensitivity to noise can be easier to control if caught early. If you are able to pick up on signs that your pet may have a problem with fireworks or other loud noises in the first year or two of your pet’s life, then you should consult with your veterinarian and begin taking steps to minimize the progression of the signs over time. For older pets who develop noise sensitivity with age, or an adopted pet, keep an eye out for signs and try to deal with them sooner rather than later by working with your veterinarian.
Taking a few simple steps to make fireworks season easier on your pet can make a world of difference. If you need additional tips on how to help your pet make it through a trying time, reach out to your local veterinarian.
*PDSA, Online Survey 2013