Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fireworks - Protecting Your Pets

Fireworks: we all know how pretty they can be and people flock every year to the various displays put on, both in your local area or by a family member or friend.

While some animals seem to cope quite well with the bangs and bright flashes of light - my friend's lurcher Penny loves watching them go up - numerous pet owners struggle to reassure their pets. Sadly, it's not just the one night that these go on for either, many are put on well before Firework's Night right up until the New Year celebrations.

Animals have much better hearing than us and so you can imagine that a firework we think is pretty loud, must be extremely frightening to our dog, cat, rabbit, horse or any other pet you have. There are a number of ways that we can prepare them for this period and help keep them feeling safe and calm.

To prepare your dog for a night of fireworks, take him/her for a walk first, long before any fireworks are due to go off. Your dog will not want to go outside when the fireworks are taking place and this way they can unwind and go to the bathroom too.

Most dogs like to have a safe place where they can go when something frightens them. It could be a quiet room, behind the sofa or even in the wardrobe! This is a place where it can feel in control and you can help them learn to associate this place with positively. For example, leave a variety of toys there to keep them entertained, offer treats or praise them while they are there. It's also worth putting some of your old clothes in this area, because they can feel safer if they have your scent nearby. They should also have access to this place whenever you leave the house. This can work with cats too, especially when it comes to a hiding place!

If a family member or friend's dog isn't worried about the fireworks, it could be an idea to have this dog over when the fireworks go off. That way your dog will see that there is nothing to worry about and have a friend to comfort them at the same time.

When the fireworks do go off, make sure all your windows and doors are shut to prevent your pet from getting out. There is nothing worse than losing your pet at night, especially when fireworks are exploding, and they are at their most stressed and vulnerable. Your pet should be microchipped or carry ID tags because at least if they do get out you have a better chance of being reunited with them, should someone find them and hand them in to a local rescue or vets.

If your pet wants to hide away in a corner, pace or make noises, the best thing to do is to let them. This is their way of dealing with the fireworks and shouting at a frightened animal will only make them more stressed. It's easy to say this, but try not to let your anxiety about your pet show either. This is confirming to your pet that there is something to be scared about. Attempt to stay calm and praise their behaviour when they are calm too.

Birds get frightened by fireworks too! This will work with all animals, but playing music or turning the TV up slightly is a good way of distracting your pet bird. This way it will block out some of the noise of the fireworks and will reassure them, especially if they are used to some music or the TV on in the background.

With birds, it's particularly worth covering up exposed windows to prevent them from being disturbed by the bright flashes. A night light can also be useful because if your bird becomes distressed and starts flying around, at least they can see where they are going.

If your neighbours are going to set off fireworks, it can be worth speaking to them and explaining your concerns. If they know that your pet does not react well to fireworks, they could help to control this by setting them off well away from your house or choosing some fireworks that won't be as noisy. It's always worth a try because some people may not realise the impact this can have on your pet.

If small animals, such as rabbits and guinea-pigs, can't be brought inside, it's best to make sure they are covered up with blankets to reduce the noise. I can't bring in my rabbit Simba because his hutch is too big, but when the fireworks start I make sure he has plenty of food (as you can see he also has a teddy bear for company), place two blankets over his hutch as well as a plastic sheet and put his run lid and food bin in front of this. Hopefully, this reduces the noise for him and makes him feel safe. He also has plenty of bedding to burrow into too.

For horse owners, it's essential that you tell neighbours and firework display organisers that horses are kept nearby. That way, they should be diverted away from fields and stables. It's also vital to keep them in their usual routine to help them feel secure. Therefore, if they are normally out in a field, keep them in the field, but if they are used to being in the stable, keep them there. However, only do this if they are well away from any firework displays and the field or stable is secure.

Stay with them where possible so that you can keep an eye on their reactions. If they start to get panicked, then respond as appropriate. Horses are also very sensitive, so its important to keep calm. If you begin to get anxious, they will too and this could get much worse once the firework display is well underway.

Read up what numerous pet charities, such as the Guide Dogs for the blind, the Blue Cross, PDSA and RSPCA have to say too when it comes to protecting your pet from fireworks.

On another note, this week I was sent some Pet Remedy plug-in diffusers and calming sprays, which I have given to my riding instructor and a work colleague of my sister. Both these people have problems with their dogs when it comes to fireworks and they find it hard to keep them calm. Check out my next post after Fireworks Night to see how this natural remedy has helped and the differences they have seen in their pets.

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