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Firework Phobias

By Dr. Kathryn Miller BVSc CertAVP PgCertVPS MRCVS

Firework season is on the way, which for many pets (and owners) can be an incredibly stressful time of year. The unpredictable loud bangs and flashes can cause fear and phobic behaviour that can be extremely hard to deal with.

Is My Pet Scared Of Fireworks?

Running away, hiding, shaking, crying and seeking comfort are all clear signs of fear.  Other signs can be subtler though – watch out for lip licking, salivation, vomiting and reluctance to eat meals. Some animals will become destructive or toilet in the house.

How Can I Help My Pet?

  • Provide somewhere to hide

Create a den by covering your dog’s crate, make a comfy fort behind the sofa, or even furnish an upturned box for cats and smaller dogs. Remember, cats often feel safe up high, so placing the den on a bookshelf or counter can be useful.

  • Keep your pets in

Ensure dogs are walked before dark and bring cats in overnight. Ideally, lock the cat flap to stop them bolting outside if panicked. Consider having you cat microchipped, so that if she does bolt and get lost/injured she can be reunited with you more easily.

  • Provide distractions

Background music/TV on a low setting can really help distract from the noise of the fireworks.

Another preferable alternative is a calming product that helps your animal process the stressful event in a less stressful manner, without sedating, thus helping deal with the underlying phobia. This can be very effective alongside a desensitisation programme. These products come as collars, sprays and tablets, all of which are best started before the fireworks to achieve maximum effect.

Can Medications Help?

Whilst sedatives can make an animal more manageable, they are not ideal as they will not always reduce the level of fear that an animal is feeling, rather they just stop them being able to display that fear. These should only be reserved for absolute emergency situations.

Can I Desensitise My Animal?

Desensitisation programmes can be extremely effective, but an animal must be in a non-fearful state initially, so they are best started before firework season begins. Playing a firework noise CD; starting on a low level and increasing the level gradually whilst rewarding calm behaviour, can help build a tolerance. Call our nurses for further advice on such programmes.

Another preferable alternative is a calming product that helps your animal process the stressful event in a less stressful manner, without sedating, thus helping deal with the underlying phobia. This can be very effective alongside a desensitisation programme. These products come as collars, sprays and tablets, all of which are best started before the fireworks to achieve maximum effect.

For more advice, call 01494 459095 to speak with our vets and nurses.

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