Fireworks season is one of the most stressful times of the year for our pets – and owners
Research from the RSPCA found 62 per cent of dogs, 55 per cent of horses and 54 per cent of cats show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks.
A spokesperson from the charity said: “This fireworks season could be the worst for animals for decades as lockdown cancels public events and Government restrictions prompt more people to have DIY fireworks displays at home.”
Their advice for dogs is to provide them with a safe haven, so a den or crate, consider a calming collar or plug in, walk during daylight, sound proof your house by closing curtains and windows and try to desensitise them to firework sounds.
Small furries can be comforted by having extra bedding and the charity urges owners of horses and livestock to put them in barns or stables when fireworks begin.
Cat owners are also being urged to be extra vigilant this year and prepare their pets.
Nicky Trevorrow, behaviourist from Cats Protection said: “Owners should ensure cats are microchipped and details are kept up to date, just in case your cat gets spooked and runs away.
“Get your cat used to coming indoors for their dinnertime so they can be safely locked inside from dusk onwards. Remember to also provide a litter tray so your cat does not need to go outside.”
There are lots of products and gadgets that can support animals too, and in this post I talk about the things that have helped my pets and some other solutions for coping with fireworks.
1. Create a safe den or hideaway
Making a cosy den is something you can do for dogs and cats. For Daisy, we bought a blackout crate cover with roll up doors – you can have the cover down or up and it muffles sound.
Putting blankets over a regular crate has the same effect.
Fill it with a nice comfy bed, a blanket that smells familiar, and toys. Patch uses it and we give him a stuffed Kong or treats to enjoy in there so he sees it as a positive place.
It’s in our living room, he goes in and out of it whenever he pleases and we don’t shut the doors – it’s his ‘bedroom’ and a place to relax and feel safe.
For cats, having an igloo style hideaway which is higher up can make them feel more comfortable. Animal Instincts do a very reasonable one for £15.99 for a small that could be put on shelves or drawers.
Again, pop some of their favourite toys or treats in so they associate it with things they enjoy.
2. Exercise them as much as you can in the daytime
No matter where you live, kids will set off bangers and being in the vicinity of a firework is terrifying. Each year, you hear of dogs bolting off and going missing for days.
Website Doglost.co.uk say they deal with hundreds more cases of missing dogs at this time of year because they run away after being frightened by fireworks.
So ensure your dog has most of their exercise in daylight – before people feel the need to set off fireworks.
If you take them out in the garden to go to the loo later keep a close eye on them. I would take Daisy out on her lead just in case the gate was ajar and she ran off.
It might sound over cautious but it’s best to be on the safe side. With cats, keep them indoors from late afternoon and make sure your microchip details are up to date.
3. Take them on a doggy vacation
When I had Daisy I lived in a village called Lymm, close to the centre which meant loads of displays on the weekend before Bonfire night and on November 5th.
As Daisy was older, for her last fireworks night, we decided to take her on a mini break over the first week in November and went to Sleights on the Yorkshire Coast.
We researched a lot beforehand and found a gorgeous cottage in a quiet village with barely any fireworks at all. If it’s possible for you to do the same I would highly recommend it.
We’ve done this every year since and are hoping to go to Robin Hood’s Bay as long as we are allowed because of the current lockdown restrictions.
Patch wasn’t reactive to fireworks, but last year on a walk, way before November 5th, someone set off a load of fireworks and he got really scared and continues to fret at loud bangs.
4. Play calming music
We use a Spotify playlist called Relaxing Music for Dogs and it’s brilliant. It’s a little like the music you have in a spa.
With Daisy, we took her out for long walks during the day then in the evening, we closed the curtains to muffle any sound and light, put on the music and she relaxed and snoozed by the fire.
As we were in a remote spot, it pretty much drowned out any noise and made for a far less stressful time for her and for Tommy and I too.
I use this music for Patch as well, and it’s really easy to access if you have an Alexa or Google home, just tell it to play Relaxing Music for Dogs.
5. Try a herbal calming supplement or compound
Try a supplement like YuCalm Dog and YuCalm Cat. They’re tasty and you can put them inside some of their food in a Kong or chew toy, as the act of chewing calms your pet.
They contain Lemon Balm to help them relax but it’s not a sedative and can start to take effect in a few days. We used them to help Patch settle in after adopting him in August.
Lintbells worked with Bristol University to develop this treatment to reduce feelings of anxiety for dogs but to help them overcome the issue they were scared of by re-introducing them to it with positive rewards.
The supplements contain L-Theanine Green Tea extract and White fish protein extract which supports the feelings of reward and Vitamin B.
John Howie, co-founder of Lintbells explains: “You start by helping them feel calmer, and when they feel calmer they’re more receptive to training or the message your giving them, then the other extracts trigger the feeling of reward and playfulness.
“Because they feel better about the situation they’re in, there’s a positive cycle of calming and feel good behaviour.”
If you need something fast acting, try Dorwest Valerian Compound comes in liquid form and works in a few minutes, so you can give it to them if fireworks start unexpectedly.
YuCalm Dog £10.99 for 30 tablets Animed Direct
6. Help them get used to the noise
Dog’s Trust have a ‘Sounds Scary’ programme developed by vets Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen and playlist you can use to acclimatise your pet.
It includes whistles and whooshes, bangs and pops, full fireworks and individual fireworks and it can help reduce fear by gradually exposing them to the noise in a safe environment.
Find out more here Dog’s Trust Sound Therapy For Pets.
7. Use a plug in diffuser or collar
Adaptil pheromone plug ins and collars for dogs and Feliway diffusers for cats can be used in the weeks and even months running up to Bonfire Night and New Year.
It’s recommended that they’re used a month before you expect your pet to experience anxiety, so start using them now and expect to see a change in a week.
Dog appeasing pheromones – those released by their mother while in the litter which dogs find a comfort from being puppies throughout their lives – are released by both products.
These go via the nose to receptors in the brain to give a feeling of calm. With the collar, they are reassured whether they are indoors or outdoors.
The Adaptil Calm plug in diffuser circulates the same pheromones in the home and creates a comforting and safe environment for dogs of all ages.
With cats, plug ins which mimic the face pheromones such as Feliway Classic send a message to the cat that their environment or home is safe.
Ones that mimic the scent of a mother’s milk, like Feliway Friends, send signals that the owner is safe and helps humans and cats to bond.
8. Spritz their bandana with a calming spray
Pet Remedy spray is ideal to spritz on bandanas. Created by vets, it’s completely natural and can be used for dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and small furries.
It’s made of a mix of Valerian, Vetiver, Clary Sage and Sweet Basil essential oils and works by mimicking the pet’s own calming mechanisms.
When they become anxious, Pet Remedy sends messages from nerve cells to the brain to calm and acts almost instantly.
Pet Remedy comes in a diffuser too, and the spray is organic so kind to skin and fur, and with a delicate scent that won’t irritate pets.
The first year we had Patch (before he was scared of fireworks) we gave the Pet Remedy plug in to one of his dog friends from the park who was really scared, and some Dorwest Valerian tablets, and she said they worked wonders.
9. Feed them a natural tablet to support them
There are two tablets for pets that can be given with food during times of stress.
The first is Zylkene which contains milk protein derivatives and magnesium to calm pets.
It’s designed to mix easily into your pet’s food and should be taken a couple of days before and after any event that might cause anxiety.
Anxitane chewable tablets are taken twice daily and contain natural L-Theanine to promote feelings of calm without making your pet drowsy.
They have a fish flavour to make them more appealing and can help pets stay alert and focused too.
10. Consult your vet
I’ve talked about some products I’ve tried and found helpful and medication that has been recommended by a trusted professionals and organisations.
But the vet who sees your pet regularly is the best person to advise you and ensure you don’t mix any of the tablets or supplements suggested here.
Finally, I hope you and your pets have a safe and stress free fireworks season.
- This post is sponsored by Animed Direct, an online retailer providing discounted medication, food, treats and accessories. To find out more about the products mentioned, visit www.animeddirect.co.uk
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