I first learned about how unpleasant, and at times dangerous, fireworks could be for pets, when my five-year-old Jack Russell suddenly took a dislike to them. While I was enjoying a spectacular display watching from the garden, I found Molly on the floor inside shaking and panting and so distressed, she was inconsolable. Up to this point she had never shown any issues with fireworks. I now have a dog that hates both fireworks and thunderstorms.
Fireworks can be scary for any animal
What may be fun for the two-legged can be terrifying for the four legged. My friend's cat once hid under her bed for two days after a loud display at the neighbour’s house.
Watch your pet, as signs of anxiety can show in different ways. Dogs may start panting, shaking, and breathing heavily. They can run to their crate (or a space where they feel safe) or try to hide. In some cases, a dog that is usually very mild mannered can show different behaviours. Like snapping at their owners, making a mess inside the house, or being destructive. For Molly I am normally her favourite person, yet when she gets to this stress level with fireworks, not even my presence soothed her.
When a dog or cat is panicked, they can behave out of the norm, so treat your animal with caution and care.
Introducing a new pet to fireworks
If you just purchased or adopted a pet, introduce them to fireworks slowly, maybe play them a video or recording to see their reaction. Even sparklers can bring reactions in some dogs.
Keep your pets inside and try to time their walks during quieter moments.
Create a safe space.
Try not to confine them to a place they did not choose, even if you think it's quieter, this could lead to more anxiety. People often think crate training is cruel, but dogs often love them.
Crates can be great, but the correct introduction is important, certainly do not suddenly put them in a crate.
Keep the door to the crate open, place some of your dog’s favourite things in it, feed them in it and watch what happens. They may choose it when they are scared or even when they just want a time-out and some quiet time to themselves.
For some animals, like Molly, who have severe reactions, more aggressive calming techniques may be necessary. I tried a calming shirt which worked for her. The make many experts recommend are Thunder Shirts, which are available for dogs and cats at pet stores and online.
The effect of it is like swaddling a baby. It is a calming effect on the body. The good news is that it does not have any side effects. They are easy to use and unlike medication, have an immediate effect.
Leaving the TV on or having soothing music can help drown out the noise. Also just having some background noise can help drown out the loud noise.
What to do if you cannot calm your pet during fireworks?
If all else fails and your pet is hiding, pacing, refusing to go outside or use refusing to use a litter box?
AFTER the fireworks or a thunderstorm talk to your vet about medication.
Never forget that your vet is a great source of information and resources.
With the number of occasions, we now seem to have for fireworks, asking your neighbours to let you know if they are going to have a party, and planning in advance should help avoid nasty surprises.
Like humans, not all dogs are the same. Always Consider YOUR pet’s personality. Parents know best! Trust your gut, do not take a skittish dog to a party that might have kids waving sparklers, and even if your cat goes out during the day, bring it in at night during fireworks season.
As written and told by Helen Coutts, Clipit Business Development Manager.